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The Hard Lesson I Learned About Reaching Out to Others Struggling With Mental Health

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

May was Apraxia Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. On the surface, it does not seem like they have very much in common. Apraxia is a rare speech disorder in children, and mental health has to do with… well, mental health. Ironically, they are the two conditions I write about the most. I like to (and do) believe most people are good. Regardless of how good a person’s intentions may be, I think we often miss opportunities we actually want. I learned this the hard way, unfortunately, when I wrote a popular Mighty article for suicide prevention titled The Two Words I Would Have Said to My Friend Who Died By Suicide.

In this piece, I lament that, had my friend just called me, I would have been there. I say this as complete truth. I know I would have. I just would have. Unless I had been gravely ill or incapacitated, had my friend called me during her time of crisis, I would have been there. Who could argue I didn’t have good intentions? Well, to my surprise, many actually did. Many people pointed out that a person with depression isn’t going to reach out to anyone because they already feel like a burden. Many people pointed out, had I really wanted to help her, it would have been I who would have reached out instead. Oh, and not just reached out and asked, “How can I help you?” No, not that. I should have kept reaching out and reaching out because depression is insidious, trapping the person inside. Obviously that was a hard pill to swallow.  However, Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” In other words, there is no point in feeling guilty about the past because you didn’t know; but once you know, you have an obligation to do better in the future.  Knowing what I know now, I would have kept reaching out.

This may seem like an odd jump, but the same is true when it comes to mothers to a child with a disability, or heck, the person with a disability. The road is hard. That doesn’t mean we would change the road, or wish we had a different car for the road; but it is hard and many times a lonely road. Even close family members will not understand the struggle.  For all those of you telling your friends things like, “I’m here if you need me,” or “call anytime,” or “let me know if you need a break,” I’m asking you to just assume they do and go help them. Show them you are there for them. Offer a day and time you are taking their kids or bringing them coffee and just going to have an adult conversation with them.

No one, whether they have depression, a child with a disability or have a disability themselves, wants to feel like they are a burden or imposing themselves on anyone. Show them you are there for them. Action. This is blunt but true. No one cares what you say; they care what you do. If you, or me, or anyone else really means “I’m here for you,” then do it.  Show it!

Currently, I feel like people don’t understand another person’s plight that is not their own until they experience it themselves. A person who has never had depression doesn’t understand why a person with depression wouldn’t reach out. A person who has never had a child with medical needs or disability doesn’t understand how difficult it is until or unless they have a child who has these needs. A person who has never been a single mom doesn’t understand how difficult it is to be a single mom unless the person goes through being a single mom themselves.This doesn’t have to be the case! In this age of the internet and information and knowledge at our fingertips, we have an even greater chance at becoming better people. We may not know the experiences of others first-hand, but we can read about them and then take actions to improving, enriching and enhancing the lives of each other.

I could have been indignant that those who actually had depression told me my well-meaning “had she just called me” didn’t hold any weight, or I could learn from it. I chose the latter and I know that in the future, if I ever think anyone is struggling again, I won’t wait for their phone call. I will deliver it myself.

Let’s let this age of information make our lives and the lives of those around us better, because knowledge is power and we have knowledge at our fingertips. If we know it is a universal truth that everyone in this life will have or will be going through some sort of struggle, let’s choose to be kind and not simply say, “we are here if you need me,” but take the actions that show others we truly care.

Let this Apraxia Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month not just be a crazy coincidence, but a reminder that everyone on this planet is experiencing joys, fears, heartaches and love, and that is simply this thing called life.  Beyond the “I’m here for you,” let’s let it be a chance for us to show it through our actions. The popular quote misattributed to Mark Twain says: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do.” So, what are you going to do to make a difference?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: June 13, 2018
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