She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
I’m just going to throw this one out there. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Study after study shows that people who take care of all aspects of their health live longer, more fulfilling lives. Like many health related things, however, people don’t want to talk about it.
So I’m going to talk and hope at least one person listens. In the last two months, several people I care about have become so disillusioned with life that they decided suicide was the only way out. While I’m not an expert, I’ve been there myself and walked with many others who have felt this way. I’m not going to sugarcoat things here with the hope that at least one person understands what I’m saying.
At the time a person reaches this point, the sense of reason is gone. There is literally nothing visible to the individual aside from release. It’s like tunnel vision or wearing blinders. Distraction is almost impossible because the fixation on relief is so strong. If someone is well and truly only focused on the relief, there is not much anyone can do to stop the inevitable conclusion. You can try to talk someone off the ledge, but a truly determined individual will not hear you.
Which brings me to my next point. We’re social beings. If you start to see a friend withdraw, ask why. This is the time your words may be heard. Waiting until the cries for help become so obvious they can’t be ignored is too long. Engage your friends on a regular basis. Check on each other and listen instead of thinking about your next activity. Just imagine if we all paid as much attention to the people around us as we do to celebrities. Everyone’s well-being would improve.
The flip side of this is to recognize when you are over your head. Some people need more help than others. While a chat or a hug may help someone regain a wider view, it’s just not possible for everyone to bounce back as easily. The airline advisory to put your own mask on first is so true. If you become fixated on helping someone who doesn’t want help, you can go down as well. Especially if the person is ultimately successful despite your efforts.
Ironically, mental health professionals are some of the lowest paid individuals and yet they carry such a huge responsibility. My insurance only reimburses up to about 1/3 of what they pay my physicians. As my news feed becomes plugged up with stories about how mental illness is to blame for most shootings, I just think about how great it would be if we not only had the professionals, but also the respect for the profession. Money isn’t everything, but everyone has bills and it would be nice if the people we hope will step up could be compensated accordingly.
Many years ago a movie titled “Crocodile Dundee” screened across America. The title character is from Australia and ends up in America. He has a conversation about life’s troubles with the female lead who mentions her therapist. And the words he spoke “don’t you talk to your mates (friends)?” still reverberates in my mind. We have all become so busy that we have forgotten about our mates. In this crazy, self-absorbed society we have left our friends to fend for themselves. And that is just not cool.
For those of you who contemplate relief on a regular basis, I urge you to seek out professional help now. For those of you who think, but don’t act, reach out. There are many avenues out there available to you. Sometimes you just need to see around the next corner. For those of you who think you’re immune, I ask you to share your strength. Engage with your friends and community. Help others see the sunny side of life.
We’re all in this together. Don’t place blame. Shaming people because you think they’re weak is not okay either. You don’t know what is up next in your life. Or how well you will cope with the next curveball life throws you. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to offer help. Don’t shy away from someone because they have hit a bump. You may be the one who makes a difference.