SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Head, heart and happiness

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

When calling on constituents, either to hear their views or concerns, or to check on their well-being, I am often prompted to check facts.

At the weekend, during a serious discussion, I was assured that most things were better in Scandinavian countries.

I think that people here in the UK on the whole are pretty happy most of the time.

We have a well performing local hospital and excellent local schools staffed by caring and competent professionals.

The local economy is strong. Redevelopment of the town through the Montague Centre and Teville Gate is planned. 2018 is a year for Worthing to look forward to.

The UK has the fourth lowest suicide rate in the European Union; only Italy, Greece and Cyprus are lower.

Norway is 13 per cent higher than the UK, Iceland 59 per cent, Sweden 71 per cent and Finland over 90 per cent.

I can’t say I know why the figures vary this way: it could be a result of the darker winters; it may be affected by any number of factors, including a reluctance to declare a death as suicide.

What I do know is that even seven suicides amongst 100,000 people are terrible reflections of individual unhappiness.

We have failed to make sufficient progress: the pain and desperation for the person involved along with the unending grief to their families must be given due attention to reduce the incidences of suicide.

The UK ratio of more than 3.6 to one between males and females is high. The total number is around 6,000 a year.

Mid-January, the third Monday – ‘Blue Monday’ – is supposed to combine the influences of Christmas credit card bills, post-Christmas blues and failed new year resolutions as well as cold damp weather to result in some who feel low and helpless to sink to the lowest depths of darkness.

I add, of course, that those who live with depression know these feelings very well and are aware that they are not confined to or dictated by any date or time of year.

Most importantly, there are ways we can all help. Acknowledging stress or anger or helplessness and intense feelings can be difficult for people: the Samaritans put it well: “...you may be sure that you want to die, desperately want a solution to your nightmare and can’t see any other way out, don’t care if you live or die and are taking more risks or living recklessly, don’t actively want to kill yourself but would welcome death if it happened. You might view death as a release or way of taking control. You don’t know why you are having suicidal thoughts and feel completely powerless to know what to do about it.”

The Samaritans can talk with you through all of this. One of my own aunts was an early listener. She would approve of the Samaritan’s idea to change Blue Monday into ‘Brew Monday’.

Simply turning the January blues on its head by celebrating and preserving our great tradition of joining together to talk over a cup of tea (or coffee) can be such a positive experience bringing light and warmth to any day.

The Samaritans send a free fundraising pack with everything you need to host your own Brew Monday event at home, work or in your community.

Any Monday can be a Brew Monday: I think it’s a great excuse to get people together for a cuppa, a chat and to banish the winter chill and darkness.

I offer my wishes for better mental health and better support for all this year.

Contact me if you believe I or my small team can help.

Contact the Samaritans by email: jo@samaritans.org or telephone 116 123 if you need a listening ear.