Can We Save Our Friends With the Aid of an Acronym and Some Mood Mapping?

When someone suicides and there’s a half written note, someone is sure to be asking, “Why?”

When I was teaching Mental Health First Aid there was a fellow facilitator who was a policeman. He brought along, by far the best (that I have seen), mnemonic for explaining how people reach a point where they will suicide. It is a shame this has been forgotten rather than SHAREd.

If I had help going through the papers I stored, from those days, I could perhaps find what that policeman gave me. I could have thousands printed. People could keep one with their phone, laptop or even on a wall in their kitchen. Misery seems to be causing suicides, so here I will share thoughts on reducing that…

I can say with certainty why people become miserable and with equal certainty what it is that allows people to be happy again. I have worked with the most amazing health professionals, so these are not my ideas. Here, I am using what they have said in ways that are more likely to be remembered.

Here are 5 things we all need. These have had many different names over the years and you may call them what you want. It is still true though that everything we need for wellbeing fits into these categories:

Surroundings: What is around us from; clean air, water and food to having enough money, appropriate clothing and somewhere we can sleep without fear… Surroundings continue to be ignored by doctors and psychiatrists who can afford to buy in pleasant neighbourhoods. Being in poor housing is often a consequence of lack of some of what is below…

Physical health: Not everyone who is in pain is miserable, some are. Resorting to prescription drugs to ease pain is so often a path towards deteriorating health and a downward spiral of more pain and more ‘pain-killers’. I know that sitting too long at this laptop is damaging my health and that moving more helps almost everyone. The saying, “You are what you eat” is as relevant now as it has ever been. “EAT REAL FOOD” is, I believe, the best 3 word starting point for a healthy life. Help with this is free from PHC.

Ability to choose: People who believe, “We always have a choice” are fortunate. Sometimes what we are choosing between seems too limited. Worse than this is; a) when the options seem too numerous to choose between and b) when we become fixated on one very hard choice, such as, “Do I do nothing or end my life now.” The ability to choose can be said to be autonomy and linked to freedom. Many become slaves to; the ones they love, their work, their addictions and so become less free. Not so common today is having too much freedom. Example: After a divorce – with possibly more options than one’s brain can cope with.

Communication: We all have roles and all need some kind of relationships. Both depend on our ability to communicate. Being able to distinguish between our wants and needs helps, as does recognizing what is essential to say and what is non-essential/trivial. We need to be able to ask questions, say what we need and communicate important facts. More than all of this, how accurately can we convey our feelings and mood?

I have found no better way to communicate feelings and moods than with the use of a mood-grid. It is sad that communicating using paper and pen has been going out of fashion. Please do learn to ‘mood map’. With a mood-grid we can see (yes, I mean visually on paper) how our friend/relative is feeling. We can see what their words are not conveying and what we may have missed in their body language. Knowledge of the grid helps to know whether there is deep depression (that you will learn, almost never equates to suicidal risk at that moment) of if your friend/relative is in the danger-zone on the grid, needing immediate/urgent help.

Enthusiasm: This goes with having appropriate energy as well as occasional excitement and enjoyment, Enthusiasm for life tends to wane when we lack energy. Example: In response to, “We are going to walk our dog, it’s a lovely day, do come with us.” what might a reply of, “Not today” mean. If the only reason for not walking is a lack of energy that person needs help.


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