Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

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Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Having been away from the place where I grew-up, my heart is now starting to crave a return to that place which I once took for granted. I thought my hometown was simply run-of-the-mill, boring and easy to forget, little did I know that one day I would look back over my shoulder at it and get a little misty-eyed in missing that place. Sure, it looks grey and typical from an outsiders’ perspective but once you lace the town with your own memories, it takes a hold over you for life. Nothing about it special per se but hindsight tells me that it formed a basis for my life and gave me a springboard to jump forward into the place I live now.

I love my home county in the autumn and winter. I miss walking with my dogs through the dense woods where the trees block out the rest of the world, I miss seeing my dogs kick through the neat piles of autumnal leaves as we made our way through the posh streets in town and I miss shivering in my bed at night with no heating on. It’s funny the things which cling to your heart when you look backwards at your past life. The things you would have assumed that ‘adult’ you could forget in a heartbeat come back as fresh and clear as ever. Small things which seemed inconvenient or too small to notice at the time take on a different hue when you put your rose-tinted glasses on.

Sure, I can still appreciate that it’s not perfect. People there are discontented and suspicious of each other. No-one proudly proclaims that they live there; it is not a picture postcard town. Actually, if anything, the heart of it is pretty ugly. Perhaps it is the bubble which I inhabited there for a time that I want to return to – I can take or leave the rest of it. It’s the walks I took when the air was so cold that it burned the back of my throat, it’s the journeys we took in the car after rugby matches and it’s the times I saw my doggies run around the house together in synchronised mischief. Those are the little bubbles of emotion and experience I look back at with tears in my eyes. Maybe, it’s not the place that I cherish, just the memories it provokes in me. My hometown can still be seen as my fairytale though; the place where I lived when I wanted to die and the place where I learned to breathe again when I was scared to go outside.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00