In The Wake Of Sadness
What a devastating week of news. I know there have been so many resources posted and anecdotes about the importance of mental health shared, but I couldn't avoid addressing it with a clear conscience.
There have been many shares of the suicide prevention hotline, which is wonderful (1-800-273-825), but I do think it's important to note that calling a hotline is NOT for everyone. As someone who gets nervous to talk on the phone, I could never imagine calling a random number to ask for help. Additionally, oftentimes the suicide hotline will immediately refer someone to a local crisis center — something that can be terrifying if you're already in a place of fear. So while sharing any and every resource is good and should absolutely continue, remember there are things we can do every day to help those who are struggling.
Remember to check on your friends. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health ailments are so hard to battle because of the way they change your thinking. If you've convinced yourself that no one wants to hear from you, that you're not worthy of friendship, and/or that no one cares, of course you're going to have a hard time reaching out to someone — even your family or the closest of friends — if you're struggling. For many people, it's difficult to understand this way of thinking because it's so foreign if you've never experienced it. However, if you have been trapped in this mindset, you know just how powerful it can be.
And reaching out doesn't have to be a huge, scary conversation, either! You may not feel qualified to talk to a friend about mental health in depth, and that's ok! I can only speak for myself, but I know that when I've been in unhealthy mental places it's been hard to confront the issue head-on. However, I will always remember the friends who invited me to tag along to a party, randomly said hey after a long lull in communication, or drew me out even a little as I was feeling my lowest. These sweet, seemingly random little touchpoints can mean so much to someone who is struggling...especially when an inherent part of their struggle is feeling that no one cares.
I can't recall a time in my life where I haven't struggled with anxiety. From being terrified to leave my mom to having a constant fear the rapture would leave me “left behind” (that's southern baptists for ya), that feeling has always seemed inherent to my personality. As I got older, it manifested itself more in social anxiety and totally irrational fears about my pets’ health, but it’s still something that affects every thought I have. Even at 22, I’m still learning about all the things that are a result of it, and doing what I can to be better. And having people in my life along the way who are understanding and receptive to this has made all the difference.
While tragedies are something we cannot control, we can control how we behave in their wake. It's so essential that those who can share do, and those who listen to show empathy. While this is a multi-faceted, societal problem, people feeling comfortable sharing is the first step in changing the status quo. Storytelling is the basis of human connection; if those who are brave enough to share their stories can do so without being labeled selfish, attention seeking or crazy, maybe more people will be brave enough to speak up. And when some speak up and others listen with the intent to understand, beautiful things can happen. So to paraphrase my one of my favorite quotes, let us not listen with the intent to reply, and instead listen with the intent to hear.
Finally, I urge you that if you’re in a good mental space, check on your friends and family today. Being a generally good, compassionate, empathetic human could quite literally save a life.