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  • Heather Sanderson

Who rescued who? Our dog helped save my daughter.


This is part of my teenage daughter's mental health post, in her own words:


trigger warning: mention of suicide 


As it’s May and is mental health awareness month, I would like to share a bit of me that’s been on my heart. As some of you may know, 3 years ago I stood at the pier and wanted to jump off it. I wanted to end the pain I felt that I thought would last forever. I wanted to end the burden I felt I was. It is the most alienating feeling in the world. Yet my dog Bella was at the end of the lead in my hand, and despite how numb I felt, like reality didn’t exist, I could not let my dog watch me end my life. So, I didn’t do it.

I got help. It was hard. It still is hard. Depression and Anxiety is a killer. Mental health illnesses are serious. Every 40 seconds someone dies as a result of suicide. Men are 3 times more likely to die from suicide then women. Speaking up is essential. Asking for help isn’t attention seeking. Receiving help, therapy, counselling isn’t shameful. It has saved my life.

The friends who sat and listened. They may not have understood my pain, my actions or feelings but they stood by me. Through panic attacks, late night messages during suicidal times, to unspoken gestures of comfort, to letting me cry when I needed to, and making me laugh when it felt impossible. G for never turning her back on me, who when I opened up to her about it all, I promised to her I would never do anything ‘stupid’ without contacting her first, and that promise and her has stopped me from self-harm and from reaching breaking point.

There are countless people who have been there for me, in ways some of them don’t even realise.  I am so grateful to have a support network I as I do. I know not everyone does. But I want you to know you are not alone. You are never alone. It’s okay to ask for help. Please reach out to those you trust.

Know that it won’t feel like this forever. I never thought I’d smile again. I never thought I’d love again. I never thought I’d be loved again. I never thought I’d be truly happy again. But I have. I have smiled at a baby. I have loved. I have been loved. I’ve laid out in the sun, swam in the sea, cosied next to a fire and felt happiness. It may have lasted a second, minute or hour. But it still counts. 

I want to say all this to show you what feels impossible is possible. You have a future. You may not see it, but it’s there. It will take time, strength, and endless courage to face the fight each day. But be gentle on yourself. It is not your fault if you have a mental health illness. It doesn’t care what your circumstances are.

I’ve had people say to me after I’ve opened up to them- “but you always seemed like you had it all together” “you smile so much though” “your life seemed perfect”. However, looks deceive. I mastered acting. I thought I had to always mask how I truly felt. Mental health doesn’t care if you have money, a house, lots of friends, a family. You cannot live too much of a ‘good life’ and be immune to mental health. So be kind. You never know what is going on in someone’s life. Try not to judge what you may not understand. To quote Matt Haig from Reasons to Stay Alive- ‘Some things are known, but more isn’t.

Maybe this lack of true understanding explains why there is still stigma about mental health.’ Be there for the friends and family that needed it. Msg, speak to and check in on someone. If someone you know is suffering with their mental health, be a listening ear or a warm hug. Do your own research, learn about depression, eating disorders, grief etc. Support them and encourage them to reach out to professional help. Be relentless in getting the help you need. You may have to go back to the doctors numerous times. It will be painful. But help is there.

You can call the Samaritans on 116 123, it’s free and available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The website and charity Mind has great information and resources on mental health. Please don’t hold in how you feel. It’s okay to let it out. Ignore those that tell you otherwise. And always know that you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. You have a place in this world. And if no one tells you this today, and if you can’t tell yourself it, I love you. From human being to human being. You can get through anything.

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