Mental illness can be so overwhelming at times. To the the person affected and also to their supportive loved-ones. It can feel like you’re pushing a gigantic boulder up a massive mountain. So I’d like to remind us all to focus on the little things. It’s an accumulation of all the little things that can truly make a huge difference.
A simple phone call or text “checking in” on someone you care about could be the catalyst to them opening up and then seeking help. “Wanting you to know that I’m thinking of you,” or “I feel like you might be struggling right now, is everything okay?” Or maybe when they respond back and ask you how you’re doing it makes you stop and think, “Actually, I’m not okay.”
It could be that you and a friend or two, share with one another that you’re noticing John or Sally “haven’t been themselves lately.” Instead of shrugging your shoulders and saying “Oh well, I’m sure they’ll get over it,” you make a plan with your friends to all go out to lunch. Or maybe a movie. Or a hike. You don’t need to turn it into an overwhelming “intervention” because just the simple gesture of connecting and physically being there for one another will have an enormous effect, right there in the moment, and also years down the road. In the back of your mind, without even realizing it, you will also be reminded that “you are not alone.”
Another example of a “little thing” is when you’re walking by a homeless person on the street, whether they have their hand out or are simply just trying to survive the harsh elements, take a few moments out of your day to walk into the corner store and buy them a water or a sandwich. If you know of a shelter nearby or maybe a clinic, let them know that there are resources out there for them. We all know this problem needs to greatly improve, but for now, let’s focus on the little things.
If you see someone who is having a mental “episode,” don’t avoid the uncomfortable situation. Think of it this way, if you saw someone bleeding on the sidewalk, or clutching their chest in pain, would you look the other way? Or would you pick up your phone and call for help? I’ve been told by experts that this person is experiencing the equivalent of a heart attack in their brain. They need help immediately. Call your emergency number. Explain what you’re witnessing. Stress to them this person is in crisis and needs their help. Yes, we need to improve our medical system. But for now, do your small part. Try to help someone that isn’t able to do it themselves.
Volunteer at your local homeless shelter, or neighborhood clinic. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas. Donate the extra food that’s been tucked away in your cupboards to the food bank. Or go through your closet and give away old clothes and linens to a nearby donation center. Any one of these small gestures makes a huge difference.
When you pass a first-responder in your neighborhood, a police officer, a paramedic, a fireman, or emergency room nurse, just take a moment and thank them for what they do. Because your loved one, or even you, may need them one day.
Because the statistic is so high that someone within your lifetime will experience a mental health condition, be present with the people around you. Be prepared to say to someone that clearly needs help, “I may not have the answer for you right now, but let’s figure this out together.” I’ve heard so many stories about people that are faced with a friend or family member that is struggling, and because they feel like they don’t know what to do, and fear they may do something “wrong,” they ignore it. They put it off and hope someone else jumps in to help.
Listen, it’s okay. There isn’t any specific “right way.” It’s messy. It’s confusing. It’s scary. You may not always know the right words to say. But just by doing something small, that little thing, you and your loved ones will start on the right path and help someone else along the way.