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Enough of the Quick-fix Mentality

There is so much to be done in the world of suicide prevention, and while we may be making some small steps in starting more conversations, creating more awareness, dismantling more stigma, there are so many underlying beliefs and attitudes that need to be acknowledged and changed.

You tell your friend or loved one that you’re there for them and that they can be honest with you about their mental health, but a lot of times saying it with the hopes that there will be a quick fix. It has been a long-standing mentality in our society that as soon as a problem arises, we need to find a quick solution and put it in the past. But what about those of us whose mental illnesses are chronic and long-term? It probably isn’t your intention, but because you so badly want to see your loved one get better you become frustrated and minimize the tremendous struggle that mental illness often is - even when in “recovery”. I say “recovery” because for some people there is no definite finish line where a life of health and happiness begins and their illness ends. For some, their illness(es) will be a daily ingredient in a fluctuating recipe that is the rest of their lives. That doesn’t mean they won’t attain relief or that there won’t be many moments of joy, strength, and resilience; it just means that the next day might not promise such ease and that good days don’t mean the illness is gone.

My problem with this mentality is that while it’s amazing that you’re wanting your friend to be open about their mental health, if you aren’t allowing them to feel like they can be honest about their ongoing struggle then what’s the point? If after a few weeks, months, or even years, they’re still battling the same symptoms at times, then somehow I doubt you telling them to “cheer up”, “just get outside more”, “smile”, “think more positively” is going to cure their illness. I get it, I get that you’re sick of seeing them suffer and that you so badly want wellness for them. However, I bet they’re even more sick of it than you are. I bet that after countless efforts with therapies, medications, coping skills, self-care activities, and other forms of treatment and incredibly hard work, it doesn’t feel so great to be told they simply need to start thinking more positively (because I bet they’ve already tried that, too).

I guess my point is just that we need to start understanding, that for many of us, there is no quick fix for mental illness and that the best thing you can do is be patient with us. Try to just listen compassionately and without judgment, and refrain from offering advice unless your loved one is asking for it - sometimes we just need a soundboard and a hug. Making us feel like we should be better by now, that we must not be trying hard enough to “recover”, or putting any kind of timeline/agenda on how we try to reclaim our lives is not going to leave us feeling motivated to be honest about how much we may be struggling. And when we don’t feel like we can be honest, we’re stuck in the same old cycle of suffering in silence when we don’t have to.

At any given time, it is OKAY not to be okay and it is okay to say so!