10/10/2017
Do much more

The kerfuffle over what Joey de Leon said last week somewhat dovetailed nicely to this week, and to today, specifically. Today, apparently, is World Mental Health Day - another one of those days about another one of those things, only this time it's much more pressing than most.

Pressing, because never before have people been more aware of the importance of mental health. Never before has the impact of mental health on individuals been clearer, in a world not just of increased stresses, but of increased connectivity - we know more about each other, in the paradoxical way that we know less about each other. The message could be clearer, finally.

And yet, because of the paradoxical nature of things these days, we know little. Nothing we see is real anymore. Nothing we see is true at first glance. So here I am, writing what I am going to write, and here you are, just listening to what you know will appeal to you.

The response to Joey de Leon was disappointing, yet predictable. But then, it might all be down to what we were thinking and feeling at the moment. If I was feeling particularly stressed that Thursday afternoon, I would be angry; I would be shouting at the television, with that guttural voice people ascribe to barbarians. I would feel invalidated. I would feel diminished. I already feel diminished, and here's this idiot on a noontime variety show diminishing me further, minimizing me further, belittling me further. I know I've felt exactly that when I listen to this country's president.

But then, it's one thing to feel helpless in the face of potential death, one gunshot in the head from a police officer who wants to fill his quota. It's another thing to feel helpless in the face of one gunshot in the head that you had coming, because you wanted it to happen, because it's your only way out. In that supposedly warped perspective of yours you have never understood things more than at particular moment.

The anger is predictable, understandable, but disappointing, especially from those people who live that reality that was minimized on national television, from those people who understand more than most (and not a lot can be understood - it's just the way things are) and therefore have the responsibility to spread the word, so to speak. Well, ultimately we just bullied, hurled names, called for resignations, proved our supposed worths.

It took Joey de Leon an awkward evening of being told, by his family, that depression is very much real - and that some of his loved ones have gone through, or are going through, that - to make him realize that he was wrong. (And we got five minutes on mental health on national television.) It's pretty quick work, that, changing the mindset of a man who's almost 70, who has always lumped together depression with feelings of stress and pressure. It's an easy mistake to make, especially if you've always been told that. But he's just one person, and, at least ideally, people do not just rely solely to the words of someone on a screen to form their beliefs. There is more work to be done.

I sometimes think we're not doing that work well. Perhaps it's because it's really inconvenient to talk about what's going on in our heads. If we can't articulate it well, how can anybody else? That, and the need to be instantaneous. That, and the need to grab attention. "Will you retweet this to save a life?" followed by an actual poll, with an actual "yes" and an actual "no", guilting you to not be an asshole and help spread the word. But does it help anyone?

We have to do much more. We all have to do much more. You, who understand more than most, have to be patient - in your good days at least - to others who don't understand. They don't have to understand in one offing. I haven't, and I still don't. It's not an education that requires technical terms and all the minutiae that comes with it. Don't define yourself by what you have, as they say. I have ADHD and heaven knows what else, and yet you won't see that on my social media handles.

And you, who don't understand, but perhaps, hopefully, genuinely want to be of help - you don't bring world peace with a retweet. You don't make things better with a pledge to be there. Chances are you'll only pay attention when it's this close to too late - and chances are, by the time, you're not thinking about stopping me from shooting a gun at my head, but rather, of relieving yourself from the guilt of not being there when I really needed you. One, you're a shit person, but that's all right - we all are. Just be there. And do much more.

And your responses...

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