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#SoupKitchen21: Pay some mind to how you might feel

Life might be rosy right now, but mental health doesn't always work like that...

I’ve heard it be said that the homeless or those in need of charity ‘have only got themselves to blame’, and that if they ‘sorted themselves out’ they wouldn’t need the help of others. It’s a ludicrously one-eyed belief to have of course, but it is one that some parts of society put a lot of store in.

Illness, trauma or sheer bad luck – there could be any number of reasons why people go without a basic standard of living that others take for granted.

Even if somebody has hit the self-destruct button though do they not deserve a second chance, a leg up from others that are currently in a better position? I would suggest they do, and I use the word ‘currently’ for a reason.

The lack of understanding for the plight of others can be very damaging for society as a whole, but it also suggests that those individuals are unaware that they too could one day fall on hard times. Privilege can give you a lot of things, but it does not make you invincible to something like depression and whilst there is a better general awareness of it now, this illness remains horribly misunderstood in some quarters.

Footballers are a good example of this – people see them out there living the life millions of children grow up dream of having and assume they have it made.

It is not uncommon to hear somebody say ‘if I was getting paid thousands of pounds to kick a ball around I wouldn’t complain’, but this misses the point spectacularly.

Even when you are in the team and winning, being in the public eye and having everything you do analysed and critiqued must be draining beyond belief. Just because you happen to be good at playing the game it doesn’t mean you have the capability to process everything that goes with it.

The things that many of us strive for like money, a successful career and a happy home life do not alter the fact that depression can be the result of complex neurological factors that we are all susceptible to and are sometimes impossible to wrestle with. Clinical depression is not just being ‘sad’ or feeling a little down in the dumps; it is a debilitating mix of anxiety, stress and any number of other symptoms that will not be fixed by being told to ‘get a grip’.

Feelings of guilt and self-loathing, a short temper and an inability to find joy in the things you love, like going to watch the Lads, may not normally be traits you associate yourself with but when depression kicks in they will often come to the fore.

What’s more, if you don’t recognise the signs these issues can quickly spiral and it is not a massive leap to see a situation where you feel almost paralysed.

Withdrawn and unable to vocalise this cloud, relationships take a battering and your gaffer has sacked you off for not turning up at graft. Suddenly, things don’t look so clever and you are the one in need of help.

We probably all experience elements of self-doubt and anxiety in our time. The key for everybody is to develop healthy coping mechanisms, and for those living with depression these practises mean they can still live a fulfilled, productive life. It remains a delicate balance though and the black dog will never be far away, with even the slightest action or comment from somebody oblivious being enough to spark the inner cycle of dread.

There are no rules of depression. Two sufferers may have very different emotions and triggers, and what works for one person might not work for the next. What is the same for all of us however is that it can strike literally anybody – whether you currently think ‘I’m alright, Jack’ or not.

The Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen has helped thousands of people, but we need to remember it is not just those that are homeless or need food. It doesn’t matter how or why you need to use their services. People are lonely, people have mental health issues and people have been victim of others, and yet there is no stigma to be had when you reach out to the SCSK.

At a time where there is so much division, this is a place filled with understanding and warmth. If you are reading this and thinking that their work is worthy of your support, please donate what you can. If you are reading this and thinking that is you right now, call in - you will be more than welcome.

If you are reading this and thinking that it will never be you – think again.


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