Thursday, 14 May 2015

Mental Health Awareness Week 2015

Many of you will have heard of the dilemma of the caveperson entering a clearing in the jungle and suddenly a sabre-tooth tiger jumping out. Who would want to be a tiger’s supper? There is a choice. Either combat the tiger or make a run for it (fight or flight).

We live in an artificial world compared to the caveperson’s world. We get freaked out when our personal space is invaded on the Underground. Many of us spend large amounts of the day stressed out in offices, never places we as animals were designed for.

We still feel huge fear. The threat though is no longer a sabre-tooth tiger. The threat could be some mental health problem in our lives. Other problems can mix with it making it even harder to cope. Perhaps we turn to substances like alcohol to self-medicate. Perhaps we are in debt with some aggressive characters losing their temper with us and demanding money.

Although the threat has changed since our cave person days, the way we deal with it very often has not.  After all, we are still apes at heart. Fighting is not always an option. The only other option is to disappear.

If the cave person is a fast runner, perhaps they can leave the tiger behind. For the modern person who disappears, their problems will probably stay with them. Their mental health problem remains. Running away does not make them any less addicted to substances or any less in debt. New problems, such as where to find a roof at night, might well appear. Although not all missing people have mental ill health, up to 80% do.

People who go missing because of these fears are not to be judged. Firstly, judging does no good at all, and only serves to make the judge feel superior. Secondly, unless someone has had a serious mental illness, there is no way of understanding how dreadful mental ill health is. And how frightening. Sometimes vocabulary does not help. We use the term ‘depressed’ when we don’t feel like going to work on a Monday morning – but depression is also the name of a horrible illness. Something that kills. It requires therapeutic and sometimes medical treatment, but this is not always available, or there may be a very long wait, during which much can happen.

I have recently completed research into how Community Mental Health Teams respond when someone they are looking after in the community goes missing. The research found some examples of really positive practice in supporting people who have been missing. The research also was concerned with how the charity Missing People could work with Community Mental Health Teams to the benefit of the missing person and those that are left behind. A link to the research can be found here.

If people have mental ill health and are thinking about going missing, or are missing, then help is available. For many people in this situation, the most useful help comes from someone who is not tied up in their family life or social networks. Missing People is a national charity that offers anyone affected by missing a listening ear, help to stay safe and help to get the support they need. The charity can also help the person contact their families, should they want this, or give a message to their family on their behalf.

You can ring Missing People on 116 000, round the clock, and it’s free and confidential.  The charity is also there for the families of missing people just as much as for the missing people themselves.  

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Someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit

Call or text the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.