As I walk around the conservatory after chapel, I can’t help but notice the bracelets dangling off of people’s wrists.
“YOU MATTER.”, it reads.
OKAY, I GET IT. I matter. The movement is noble in nature. It surely will brighten someone’s day if they happen to be looking at your hands.
But you can’t wear a bracelet and expect to change the world.
In light of Suicide Prevention Week drawing to a close, it’s important to reflect on whether we are showing up or showing off. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people experience some type of mental disorder. 1 in 25 have a serious mental disorder. Think about how many people you interact with a day. Now do the math and think about how many of those people are struggling.
Maybe you think your bracelet is inviting, that someone who is struggling will flock to you because you are now a lighthouse of solidarity and safety. I’m here to tell you that you’re dead wrong.
The first step to take is to build trust with your loved ones. Many people who are struggling with mental illness will not talk to you first. There is a permanent guard up for fear of being shamed, for being judged, or just being pitied. Don’t be a lighthouse. Do the hard work and row that rowboat to meet that person where the seas are the roughest.
Show up. Do not ignore signs of struggle because you don’t know what to say. Be interested and invested in your friends. Ask how their day is, and be genuine about it. Try to understand their conditions. Do not toss cookies at your person while they’re in their dark place; go and sit with them in that darkness (feel free to bring cookies with you).
You can post that you’re “here if you need to talk” on Facebook all you want, but you can never be truly accessible until you put that into practice in real life. Do not let your social media persona be better than your actual self. It’s easy to post. It’s harder to talk. We are facing an epidemic of indifference in our communities. We put up a sign that says “I CARE” but immediately retreat when someone actually shows up on our doorstep.
Apparently, I matter. Now show me.