What can you say?

I feel like writing one of those ‘hug your children / tell people you care before it’s too late’ type posts today.

I had never recognised any face on a ‘missing’ poster til a few days ago. The young man whose poster I was sharing on Facebook and Twitter is no longer with us. He was well-liked and a talented artist, and 25. I’m sorry to say that I barely knew him, as we rarely worked the same days, and he was a bit of a quiet type. But right away I thought he seemed like a nice person who I hoped to get to know – the kind of person we could all do with finding more of. When I’ve thought about how many really lovely co-workers I have at this job, he’s always been on the list.

I don’t know many details regarding the last few days, but it seems at this point that his depression may have been a significant factor. I won’t make any assumptions about the particular shadowy road he may have been travelling, or the type of black dog that might have trailed him. I’ve set toes upon a similar road, and felt a tail brush my leg, and I have friends who have taken many more steps along roads of their own. And this is why I don’t know what to write, even though I feel a need to write something.

What can we say to someone we suspect is struggling, if they’re not able to talk about it or ask for help? I’m being realistic. How often do we say to people we’re not close to ‘Hey, I think you’re a great person and I’m glad to know you’ simply because it’s a nice gesture and it might be something they desperately need to hear? How often do we tell our closest platonic friends that we love and value them?

I don’t have any answers. I’m not trying to preach. But I spoke to someone today who couldn’t understand why a young person with so much going for them might choose to end things. And that way of thinking needs to change. Mental illness doesn’t make sense. The demons don’t do logical monologues and only visit the down-and-outs. People who have success and love in their lives can still become shrouded in a maze of darkness. And sometimes, they don’t find a Hoggle and a worm and a Ludo and a Sir Didymus, or a seer with a talking hat, and can’t find their way out.

I don’t know what to say, but I know what to think. I think that no-one fully knows anyone else’s story, and as adults we should have learnt to help build people up rather than pass negative judgments. If we can see mental illness as being more like cancer and less as a lifestyle choice.

I don’t know the rights words to say, but I believe in focusing on positivity, the beauty in people, being polite as much as possible, and helping those around us to be mentally strong by showing them that *not* being so isn’t the same as being weak, or a failure.

So yes, go and hug your children and let them know it’s okay to be sad or scared. Don’t remind them of what they haven’t achieved, but support them in whatever healthy goals they might have. Goodness and kindness will make better people than money and awards ever will. And treat the checkout chicks the same way, or the cleaners, or your waiter or bus driver or airline cabin crew. And try to let your friends know you love them. Keep your word (or apologise sincerely if you can’t, and keep it next time). Remember your promises. Show respect.

To borrow a couple of phrases from the very excellent people at To Write Love On Her Arms,

Love is the movement.

Hope is real.

You are not alone.

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4 thoughts on “What can you say?

  1. poetgirl59 says:

    Depression and mental illness are real, even though it is sometimes hard to see them until it is too late. More awareness, help, and compassion needed.

  2. Servetus says:

    I hope your friend is doing at least a little better.

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