Last Thursday in York, traffic came to a halt on one side of the city. A section of the A64 (part of the City’s busy ring road) was closed and cars were forced to make their way in and out of the city centre. The road blocks were lit up by the red brake lights of cars for miles around. I was one of those stuck. I assumed, like many, that there must have been some horrible traffic collision for the road to be closed and therefore cause so much traffic chaos throughout the city. I managed to limp home in 45 minutes (my normal journey is 15 minutes). Not bad I reckon, considering that those who lived further out were still stranded 3 hours after leaving their place of work. Even radio DJs were advising people to work overtime as the city was at a standstill.

Traffic jam mental health

Arriving home I was relieved that my boyfriend had also managed to crawl home considering his office was in one of the areas worst hit. I was relieved because I could get in my pyjamas and we could celebrate Shrove Tuesday AKA stuff our faces with pancakes and watch The X-Files. But upon arriving home my boyfriend informed me that the reason for the road block, the reason that hundreds, possibly thousands of cars were still gridlocked around the city was because there was a distressed man being attended to.

Immediately I kicked off. Selfish I agree but I couldn’t believe that the traffic chaos was down to one man who may or may not be attempting suicide or something of that ilk. I had nothing planned that evening but what about those with children to feed or appointments to get to. Some may have been planning a meal out or a trip to the cinema, the small things that we do to enjoy our short time on this planet.

It is shocking how my instant reaction was to be selfish. Annoyed he was affecting my life and those of my family. No one could get home because he was in pain and was making the whole city know about it. But I think we are selfish creatures. Not all of us and not all of the time but we are. Changes to our routine are not met with encouragement and those who cause this changes are met with hostility.

Then I started thinking about how desperate and lonely and lost you must feel to wind up on a roundabout in the middle of the afternoon and consider taking your own life. Granted I don’t know if this is exactly what happened and, quite likely, none of us will ever really know. But the situation was distressing enough to close off access to and from the city and call in specially trained police officers. In all fairness it could have been a cry for attention. Maybe this was the only way he could seek help. Or maybe he didn’t actually realise a member of the public would spot him and be concerned enough to contact the police. Maybe he was experiencing his own mental health road block.

b&w woman's head mental health

I work at a University and this week ‘Mind Your Head‘, a student run mental health campaign, have been running a week-long event called ‘Mental Illness Awareness Week‘. This week has aimed to increase knowledge of mental health difficulties in order to reduce stigma. I think these kinds of initiatives and events are a great way to raise awareness and are necessary to get people talking about mental health issues.

Mental health problems are still taboo in our culture and more needs to be done to address these issues and more help and support needs to be provided. People with mental health problems can get medical help from and shouldn’t be treated differently just because it’s a health problem you can’t “see”. I don’t know if this man ever sought help or if the help was any good but I do know that we need to stop mental health problems having such a stigma. And we need to stop the selfish reflex within ourselves. I am so thankful to that member of the public who rang the police. It’s nice to know there are good people out there.

This “mental health road block” requires our patience, understanding and, most importantly, acceptance.

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