An Unscripted Plea for Mental Health Awareness
Written by: Anonymous
With the recent passing of two prominent celebrities, social media has been flooded with messages about mental health hotlines and statuses that say, “Please come to me if you need help.” One post that has been floating around Instagram in particular has struck me:
Check in on your strong friend.
You see, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were rich, famous, and successful people. They lived the lives we all dream of, and yet they were so depressed that they took their own lives. Tragic. But the thing is, they were only two of the thousands of people who took their lives this week. Who were the other people? They were neighbors, friends and family members who also suffered in silence.
I’ve been there. Probably far too many times than I can count. I was there years ago. I was there last year. The year before that. I was there just this year. Maybe even this month. Contemplating if life is worth it.
Often we filter these thoughts out because we focus on what is worth living for. For some, the negatives tip the scale far too much. Some days all the small issues build up. Other days it’s something larger. Each day, each battle, is different.
You probably couldn’t tell because I am that “strong” friend. I am the successful and independent one, the one with the amazing travel photos on Instagram, thousands of the Facebook friends, a wonderful marriage, a happy home and successful job. Or so it seems.
I am the one always checking up on everyone with random “thinking of you” messages, when all I want is for someone to ask, “Are you really okay?” Nobody knows the deep dark secrets that we choose not to publicize.
There are many forms of mental health issues. It’s not just depression. There’s anxiety and bipolar disorder. Substance abuse and addiction. Each manifests differently than the others and each person handles their struggles differently. Some people suffer in silence while others make public cries for help. The deaths we are shocked with today are those of people who appeared to have it all, but were internally deeply challenged and unsatisfied. Their
pains were their personal burdens.
People have said that suicide is a cowardly way out, but when you are in that dark place, it’s not about doing the right thing or being a coward. It’s about making a choice. It’s a big decision and nobody in that dark place takes that decision lightly.
So here is my plea, as an undiagnosed sufferer of poor mental health:
1. Stop saying suicide is the easy way out. There’s nothing easy about it. But when you’re alone, staring at the bottle, the edge of the cliff, or the rope, it seems like the only logical explanation to make all of the pain go away. It takes a lot of guts to make that final move. Many people think that they are chickening out by NOT taking action.
2. Don’t think that because somebody lives a wonderful life that they have nothing to worry about. Nobody is “too pretty,” “too smart,” or “too rich” to suffer. These persistent beliefs imply that “you really have nothing to complain about,” when nobody needs their stress to be trivialized. Being depressed isn’t about being ungrateful.
3. Stop thinking that it’s easy to get help. We know there are hotlines. We know there are counselors. Many people assume that people are ashamed of their struggle, but it’s not always that. It’s about not wanting to be a victim. Nobody wants that look of pity, that stigma of being broken. Nobody wants to be asked, “Are you ok?” every waking moment. And nobody wants people to critique their real and raw emotions.
4. Understand that everybody’s tolerance is difference. There will always be people suffering worse fates. People are starving and facing death all over the world. People are losing loved ones to death and deportation. Just because others have it worse doesn’t mean that somebody’s grief or depression is over-exaggeration or uncalled for. Comparison is the never a good thing for anyone.
5. Do not tell us to have faith in God. Pious people can still get depressed. Yes, patience is a virtue and God tests His believers, but sometimes that knowledge still isn’t enough. Mental illness is a real and concrete entity that priests and imams can not handle without training. Scripture can inspire, but there’s a reason we have professional counselors among us.
6. Don’t misinterpret us. It isn’t always about not being able to get out of bed everyday. Mental health struggles are ever-changing. Don’t assume that success or happiness is enough–oftentimes, these are masks, and the true pleas for help come in crowded rooms. Red lipstick, fancy cars, and exciting social media stories may just be facades and coping mechanisms similar to substance abuse and eating disorders.
Kate Spade’s entire claim to fame was based on spreading happiness through color and accessories. Anthony Bourdain lived the exotic life, travelling the world and speaking his mind to the point where you felt he had no secrets. Their lives were public, but their inner thoughts and emotions were private. When we as a society can truly understand that, then, and only then, can we begin to help each other.
Everyone we meet is fighting a different battle. Listen to what isn’t said. Love each other. Don’t judge each other.
Be present. Be kind. Be available.
PS: Your friend sharing the most inspiring posts about mental health may be the one needing the biggest hug.