By Wanda –
You’ve heard of “if you see something, say something.”
You’ve seen the list of “signs” to look for if you are worried about someone’s mental health.
You’ve probably posted on social media that your home is a safe place for everyone, that you always have a cup of coffee and an open heart to listen.
You probably think you’re ready to step forward and say something. The question is, are you?
Have you considered the consequences? Have you stepped back because you didn’t want to hurt somebody you cared about? Have you thought about how speaking up could effect your friendship and decided things weren’t really that bad? Have you watched silently as a friend started sliding downhill? Have you lived to regret your silence?
I have done all those things, but not today. Today I spoke up.
I decided that my friend was more important than potentially ruining our friendship and spoke to someone who loves my friend about my concerns. When you are friends with someone, you are invested in them. You and your friend hold each other in some esteem, you care for them and about them, you want the best for them. Speaking up is not tattling, it isn’t being petty, it’s something you do from a place of concern and empathy and love.
I hurt a friend today, and probably lost the friendship as well. The thing is, my friend’s mental and physical health is more important than what they think of me. In talking to their loved one, in being honest about things that concerned me and reckless behaviors I was seeing, that loved one could take my concerns about things they weren’t seeing and add them to things they knew about already and decide how to move forward.
Why didn’t I speak to my friend? Because I already had and saw no change.
Why didn’t I just call my friend out in a confrontational manner, or talk more aggressively with my friend? Because aggression and confrontation usually make people shut you out, shut down, or act out.
Why didn’t I just stay quiet instead of “going behind their back”? Because I am worried about my friend, their other loved one is worried, and by sharing what I knew there was more chance things would be heard in a more positive manner.
I’m going to be blunt — I am a suicide survivor. Trust me when I tell you there is no way, medically, I should be alive. It wasn’t a call for attention, it wasn’t a pity party, it came from a place of believing the world would be a better place for my children if I wasn’t in it. It came from a place of I wasn’t worth the space I took up, the time people spent interacting with me with me was a drain on them and waste of their time, it came from a place of believing I wasn’t worth the air I breathed. Oh yes, I’d heard all those things many many times for many many years. I’ve also been told that a military member had killed terrorists more worthy of being alive than I was.
I’ll be blunt again — a year ago I almost lost someone I love like kin to suicide. Were there warning signs I missed? Of course there were. Was I there when this dear friend needed me? I thought so. Would my world have been changed for the worse had my friend died? Yes. Oh, Lord YES. Do I live daily with the fear that there is someone out there for whom I’m not seeing the warning signs? Every. Single. Day.
Mental health is a fragile thing. Addictions and irresponsible behaviors and bad choices can be deadly. I am absolutely NOT stressing how important this is —
If you have concerns about someone, and you talking to them isn’t working, talk to someone who loves them. I cannot stress enough how much more important your friend’s mental health and safety are than your relationship with them. Greater love has no one than the friend who steps up, speaks up, and is willing to have a relationship die in order to help the friend become happy and healthy.
So, “if you see something, say something.”
Speak up if you see any of the of “signs” and you are worried about someone’s mental health.
Don’t just post on social media that your home is a safe place for everyone, that you always have a cup of coffee and an open heart to listen. WALK THAT WALK.
In the end, if my friendship has died, it’s so so very much better than even the remotest possibilities of my friend dying.