When I opened up my instagram this morning, one of the first things I saw was a video posted by Ed Sheeran. It was a quick sketch involving Prince Harry that ultimately addressed the fact that today is World Mental Health Day.
The video above is slightly amusing but the thing about it that stuck out to me was when he put it up on his instagram, he also provided numerous links to other instagram accounts for people who need the help to be able to get it. I thought that was awesome.
On a completely separate note, I have been trying really hard to get a blog post out there or get one of my paintings to be further along, and when I opened up my laptop and made my way over to this sight, the title was already there. 'Finding the Light' was open. It was a draft that I created but I had only gotten as far as the title. The combination of those two circumstances led me to writing this blog now. I know that was some rudimentary and probably unnecessary information, but this is a subject that hits close to home for me, so just diving right into the message I want to share just didn't feel right.
This past Tuesday, I got coffee with a good friend of mine and he said something that stuck with me over these past few days. We got onto the subject of suicidal thoughts in the conversation we were having, and he basically talked about how he wish it wasn't so significant to talk about. It's not that he believes suicidal thoughts are unimportant, more so that he wishes we could talk about them as if they are unimportant. Before you get upset, bare with me. Suicidal thoughts are important and significant and they are a difficult subject to talk about, but they NEED to be discussed. In day to day conversations, we talk about the mundane very easily. We even talk about our emotions easier now than we did a few years ago. However, when suicidal thoughts come up in conversation, if it's not some sort of tacky joke, people tend to shut down. They don't know how to respond to someone saying, "I've wanted to kill myself." Honestly that's completely understandable. In a different set of circumstances, I might be the same way. But reacting in that way doesn't help anyone. And I don't just mean it doesn't help the people with suicidal thoughts, I mean ANYONE. I can't necessarily speak to everyone's experience but I can speak to my own.
I have had people not know what to say when they hear me say I've had suicidal thoughts. I've had people respond, "me too," and then we discuss the circumstance of those thoughts. I've had people look at me in shock, as if they never knew it could be possible. I am fortunate enough to have never had anyone tell me I was only saying it to get attention. In high school, I can remember hearing people say that other kids were claiming to be suicidal just for the attention. But so what? I'm not saying that it's okay to lie about having these thoughts or to use this just as a way to get attention but unless you're the person doing it for attention or they've confided in you that they've done this, you can't know someone's motives. I was having a conversation with another friend and we got onto this very topic, and my response was that it doesn't matter in the end if it was just for attention. Sometimes they might not know how else to get attention of people around them. And we have no idea what the circumstances could be at home. When you meet some one, they have this life that is as intricate as your own. We get a snippet into the lives of the people we meet so we can never really know everything that's happening. The best we can do is listen, and respond. In the instance that someone confides in you that they have had or are having suicidal thoughts, I encourage you to pause, and take in what they are saying. I'm not going to say there is any one way to respond to this kind of situation because every set of circumstances is going to be different. The main goal is that we do respond to the person, and we don't just react or shut them out.
I only really spoke on responding to people who have suicidal thoughts but the concept in responding versus reacting can apply to any type of conversation related to mental health. To people who open up about having depression or feeling all over the map. Not everyone can be empathetic because sometimes you might not know how someone is feeling or understand what they are going through, but we can all respond with compassion instead reacting with silence. Everyone has the capacity to be a light for someone in the dark.