Have you ever been stopped at a stoplight or a stop sign and seen someone with a sign asking for money because they are down on their luck? How about someone walking along the side of the road, perhaps walking to work. Ever stop and think I’m not going to give that person money because they are probably a drunk? Or I’m not going to give that person a ride because they are probably a criminal or are dangerous? Ever stop and wonder how that person got to this point in their life where they are begging for money and having to walk to work?
Whether we want to admit it or not we all carry signs around with us every day. Doesn’t matter if you have a mental illness or not. We all carry signs. Some of us carry them where they can be seen while others will do everything they can to hide them. The reason of the sign will obviously vary from one person to another. Perhaps your sign says help I’m having relationship problems. Maybe it says help I lost my job and I’m in financial distress. Or maybe you are carrying a sign that say I’m struggling with a mental illness and I don’t know where to turn. Regardless of whether our sign can be seen or not our body language can send of distress signals just as easily as a written sign. My question is now that we know we all have signs to carry why are we so afraid to share them? What does your sign say?
20+ years ago I was fresh out of bible college and was asked to serve as the Youth Pastor at the church in which I grew up in. Every summer the region would have a week long camp for the teens. I can remember going as a teen and having so much fun but now I was walking into the big leagues as a Youth Pastor. I could remember every year they would set aside one afternoon to do a camper-counselor hunt. All the campers would hide throughout the camp, and there was typically 200+ campers and then it was up to the counselors to find them. I was kind of psyched to be the hunter rather than the hunted that year. The event took place without a problem and then all the counselors met to kind of debrief. We discussed some things and then discussed the event. Question came up as to how many were not found and it wasn’t many but one counselor mentioned that one of his kids was not found. It was stated he was hiding in a dumpster behind the cafeteria. Two counselors chimed in that they walked past that dumpster twice and they never bothered to look in. Then a statement was made that sticks with me to this day. “How many people do we walk by daily that are living in garbage and we don’t even know it”.
How well do you really know the person or people in your inner circle? Are they willing to share their garbage with you? Are you willing to share with them? It’s great to have a circle of friends but what does it really mean if you can’t share with them things that are really impacting you in your life right now. We get to worried that we will be a bother or that person won’t want to be friends with us anymore. Let me tell you, if they would be willing to walk away from you because of that then they really weren’t that close to you.
When was the last time you approached someone at lunch or on a break and seriously asked them how they were doing, what’s new, how’s life? Taken a vested interest in someone beyond the small chit chat talk. While I was working I had no problem sharing with people how many times I had attempted suicide or how long it had been since I had last seen my son. If that is going to turn someone off to me then it’s better to find out now than down the road.
We all talk about ending the stigma. And what ending the stigma would mean for all of us and all of those living in silence. We can’t wait till the stigma is trampled before we are willing to come out and share who we are and what we are dealing with. My journey is different than yours and your journey is different than someone else. We can’t judge someone just because that persons journey doesn’t seem to be as difficult as our own.
Everyone has something. Why wait to offer support. Why wait until that person slips into a depression to try to help? We should be proactive and recommend help before its too late. I’ve told my sister in the past that she should have a psychiatrist and therapist. Not because she needed one but incase she does she has someone to turn to. We carry the numbers to our mechanic or handyman, or our family attorney but the last thing someone wants in their contacts is a psychiatrist or therapist. The next time you see that guy asking for money or walking to work just remember maybe things would have been different if someone asked how they were doing. You don’t have to be a friend to be a friend.