…it’s off to work I go…

…walking down the streets of my town, looking like a festive fusion of elf/santa/person with dwarfism from a 1930’s Disney film who merrily whistles off to work down the diamond mine…

Youngest would love me to work in a diamond mine. During his one-to-one with Santa at the school fair on Friday, he revealed that all he wants for Christmas is an actual diamond. We can thank/blame Minecraft for this.

The fair was lovely. There were only three incidents of missing children and no episodes of vomiting. The teachers sang carols for us, the parents spent seventeen thousand pounds buying back the second-hand shizzle they’d just donated and the kids made an array of appropriately crap festive decorations.

What most of us didn’t know, as we sipped at steaming hot mugs of non-alcoholic mulled wine and eagerly awaited the results of the Name the Elf competition, was that early that morning, one of the mums at our school had died.

For years I’d seen her around and knew her name and we’d say hi. But I didn’t know her well. I didn’t know she’d been struggling for a long time with her mental health. I didn’t know she was on the brink.

The night before she died, she posted a quote to her facebook page:

‘Tell someone you love them today because tomorrow is not promised. To my family and friends – I love you!’

Seeing the warning signs is difficult. Especially when you factor in the secrecy and shame around mental ill health.

Michael Mansfield QC wants to help with that. Next month he’s sending out an SOS to my town. He set up the organisation Silence of Suicide after his 44 year old daughter killed herself last year. SOS aim to pitch up in your local town and hold an open discussion about all aspects of suicide.

Mansfield says his daughter Anna was “a marvellously energetic young woman, generous, inclusive and loving towards her children. If this happened to her, we are all vulnerable.”

This description also seems to fit our much-loved local mum.

It also describes this Anna; me.

I dumped my own suicidal thoughts years ago, in a mental box labelled DO NOT OPEN UNTIL YOU’VE SPOKEN TO YOUR THERAPIST AT LEAST FIVE TIMES. When I began counselling I had to verbally agree not to kill myself for the duration of my therapy. It felt a very solemn vow to make, but one I was curiously determined not to break. 

Fifteen years later, I have never opened the box. I’ve inspected it a few times and I can remember what’s in it, but most days I ignore it and march off to work with a ‘heigh-ho’ to entertain small children and fill my heart with giggles and cuddles and hope, so that I can come home and give my kids the same.

Most days…

I wish my own mother could have had a therapist who could help her build a box and never need to open it. I wish our local friend had too


I know that sounds flippant, but I mean it.

The Cambridge Dictionary tells us that we use the phrase ‘heigh-ho’ to express the fact that we cannot change a situation so we must accept it. I deeply hope that our local mum’s friends and especially her children are able one day to accept they cannot change what’s happened. And if they are, I do hope they can show me how to finally do it… 

I’ll go to Mansfield’s SOS gig. I realise it might not be everyone’s cup of tea and it definitely won’t be a laugh a minute, but I’ll go and I’ll talk about my mum and myself, because I’d love us to get to a place where we can really understand all the shizzle that leads to mental health problems and suicide.

That’s all I want for Christmas.

That and for the snow to fall and the sun to shine on those confused, bereaved children.

Oh, and for you all to have a ninja therapist so you can sort out your own shizzle.

Plus a case of Rioja and 200 fags for me please. (Obvs – I’m not a goddam SAINT, am I?).

Heigh-ho to THAT…

(Contact the Samaritans here. Find out more about SOS here)