Mental Health | Under That Bright Smile

A while ago, when I was at work, I heard news of a student death on campus. The night before, I heard that a friend had been reported missing for over a day. I had chills then. As it turns out, the person who died was that same friend. He had ended his own life.

sarazancotti_eiffel-tower-paris

Source: Boundaries

It was surreal–the unfolding of events. He had told his parents that he was going to go to school to study and that he’d meet up with them later for supper. He didn’t come back that night.

The next morning, the news of his death became common knowledge to friends and friends of friends.

People were hurting. I couldn’t understand why the only emotion I felt at that moment, was emptiness.. Knowing how the news hurt other people hurt me more than the death itself… Which I oddly, felt nothing for. No sadness. No joy. No anger. Just quiet.

Maybe it’s because this wasn’t the first death of someone I knew personally. Maybe it was because I worked in a long-term care center where death was a naturally occurring event. Maybe, I was just in shock.

I gave my boyfriend a big hug. Talked to him about it. Then he had to go to class and I had to go back to work.

Quiet again.

Then my supervisor walks in. He asks me how I’m doing. I say that I’m doing okay… then, not sure whether or not I should tell him, I finally decided to tell him about the news. I told him about this boy.

Always smiling. Always friendly. Always talkative. His eyes would squint and make a single crease on either side whenever he smiled that ear-to-ear smile of his.

Suddenly, anger started to bubble up inside me.¬†This boy had depression. I hadn’t seen him in months since I wasn’t close to him but he had a lot of friends. When his wide smile started to wane, why didn’t anyone truly reach out to him? Mental Health Awareness week was just the week before. Where was this awareness?

…Then there was just pain. I remembered what it was like when I was depressed and everything seemed to continue on without me. Everyone seemed to have things to do, things that they were “busy” with. I didn’t seek professional help. I didn’t want to be known has having a mental illness because there was so much stigma behind it. The moment someone knew that you were mentally unwell, they get a strange look in their eyes–a little bit of fear, a little bit of concern, a little bit of wariness.

There are all these campaigns for “raising awareness” and how to take care of your mental health. People know that it is important to reach out to someone in pain but it is easy to say that you’ll do it. Doing it is another story. It’s easy to say, “You know, there are free counselling services provided here.” It’s easy because just like that, you were able to do “something” without the weight of responsibility. Do you know what’s harder? Saying, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you look upset lately. Would you like to talk about it later? I have to ___ until ___, but after that, I’m here for you.” Boom! But yes, there is that feeling of responsibility… daunting to some, and terrifying to others.

How many times have you been faced with a situation that made you uncomfortable or upset? How many times have you decided, “I don’t want to deal with it,” and ran away from the problem? Running away is easy… because it is a self-preservation tactic. By running away, you are holding onto a small inkling of hope that the problem will resolve on it’s own. Sometimes it does. Sometimes, it doesn’t. When the problem doesn’t resolve itself, sometimes running away is still worth it. Sometimes, it’s not.


Her: Hey, Tiff. I haven’t talked to you or seen you in months. Do you want to go work-out with me sometime this week?

Me: (Peers up from dark hole of depression) Sure.

It didn’t seem like much then, but that was all it took to get me back on track. Maybe, there is someone in your life that could really use:

  • A big hug
  • Someone to listen
  • Someone to sit/walk with them
  • Someone to tell them a joke
  • Someone to ask how they are doing

These little things can be more powerful than an hour-long counselling appointment.

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

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