Wednesday, February 3, 2016

That Won't Happen To Me - Continued Indifference to Mental Health

I've been thinking more than usual lately about the advocacy and fundraising work I do in mental health, the degree to which my efforts struggle to make headway, even within my close circles. I'll be honest, I get incredibly frustrated when people I consider close won't sign up for, or even read, my blog. I get equally as annoyed when I make countless attempts, practically begging these same people, to donate even one dollar to my Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention.  Especially when they turn around and ask me to support their charity event or, better yet, spend 50 times that amount on a "all you can drink" cheap beer drinking event that following weekend, touting it as a great deal. Sometimes, it physically hurts my heart to feel ignored this way. After a significant thinking, I've come to the only conclusion that makes any sense: those people don't care.

I need to clarify. For years, and until recently, I took it highly personally. Which is to say that I thought to myself, "These people must not be real friends. They don't want to help me out. They don't care about me." But now, I don't believe that's entirely true. What I believe is, they don't care about the cause. I'm not trying to make them sound cold-hearted. The bottom line is, mental health is something that, unless you struggle with it or have actively watched someone do so (not as in "know they have it" but physically watched them in the midst of battling it acutely), it's not something that people think affects them. It seems like some sort of foreign world that they can't fathom, completely out of reach.  In part, this is a mindset. People don't want to understand. Because if they understand, they feel closer to mental illness, and they don't want to be lumped in with those "crazy people".  It's an us and them mentality, and not one that I believe is always a conscious decision. People think, "I would never take my own life; I can't imagine that." "I never get anxious or depressed like she does." "I'm laid back and chill, I don't swing between moods like she does." People who haven't experienced it truly cannot understand that mental health conditions can affect anyone - between one quarter and one third of the U.S. population, to be exact. Illnesses such as cancer and heart disease are more tangible illnesses that people can envision getting, maybe even have a family history of, and therefore want to do all they can to support treatment, prevention, and awareness for. But getting diagnosed with a mental health condition "won't ever happen to them". So they see my request and they look the other way, almost instinctually. They don't need to read my blog because it's not about them and won't affect them. They don't need to support the cause, because it's not one that's close to their heart. They don't bother to educate themselves about it because "what's the point?.  

When I look at it this way, the lack of concern and support does still bother me, but not quite so much. In part, I still don't understand it, because I'm the type of person that, if we're close and it's important to you, even if it's not to me, I'll do my best to help you out. If you're asking for $1, and I have the money to buy a beerfest ticket for $50, I'll give you the buck. Probably even five or ten, but at least one. On the flip side, I know that you're not intentionally being hurtful. To you, it's practically like my posts, emails, messages, whatever it may be aren't there. You scroll past it the way I scroll past a recipe for pork chops because I'm a vegetarian and never see the need for such a thing. So I'm trying to learn that it's not intentional. You aren't snubbing me and my hard work for beerfest tickets. You just can't find a way to relate, and when you don't relate to something, it doesn't hit home. And when it doesn't hit home, people don't donate or offer support. It's just another cause asking for money, and you've already donated your fair share to those causes close to your heart. Still, it would be nice if, because I am relatively "close to your heart", based on the fact that we're good friends or blood relations, you could offer some support, even if it were in the form of sharing my posts on your social media to see if it hits closer to home for any of your friends than it does to you.

To all of you who  read, share, post, donate, and otherwise support at every opportunity, thank you for making my efforts, and mental health, a high priority. Thank you for staying away from the "us versus them" mentality. Thank you for realizing that it is a worthy cause, even if it "won't happen to you". Indeed, I hope it that never does. 

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