Chain status updates on social media are never as useful as you think they are.
"My door is always open, kettle is always on and my front step is always warm and a place of peace and non judgement, any of my friends who need to chat are welcome anytime. It's no good suffering in silence. I have cold drinks in the fridge tea & coffee in the jars and I will always be here. ...You are never not welcome!! Could at least one friend please copy and repost (not share)? I'm trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness"
Ok, so variations of this are doing the rounds on Facebook with well-meaning people just now but it’s beginning to really piss me off!!
Here are the reasons why:
Most people who share probably do have lives with commitments to employers, or others, which mean that they simply cannot be available 24/7. I know they mean well and I’m sure they feel great when they share the sentiment... When I expressed my frustration on my Facebook page a good friend shared with me her perspective on the British psyche when it comes to just popping in unannounced, as suggested by the quote above. I completely agree with her, as both of us were born elsewhere and raised in communities which felt somewhat different. In Britain it feels like it is not the done thing to actually do what the quote suggests. My late mother frequently would lament that despite telling her neighbours, who passed by and spoke to her over the low garden wall, that she would love them to pop in for a cuppa and a chat, they never did. I’m fairly sure some of you reading this will feel that your experience is different. However, it really doesn’t seem like the done thing, the way we ‘do things in Britain’. Which makes it incredibly hard to take that step and knock on someone’s door to say hello. Especially when you don’t feel especially bright and cheery. And even though they’ve offered an open invitation.......
As someone who has coped with depression before, and who is currently grieving, and who has supported others with suicidal thoughts, I can quite categorically assure you that the people this quote wishes to help are NOT in a place to turn up at someone’s door. As I have already explained it doesn’t seem like the done thing, and people are often busy. Which means that getting up the strength and will to go round to another’s house is not easy, when we’re depressed, or grieving, or coping with mental health issues, including feeling suicidal. We are in a bad place before we even start and so we don’t feel that we can go and impose our 'black dog' on their doorstep. We worry that our friend is so busy with their own life that we can’t take up any of their time. We fear that we will turn up at an inconvenient time. If we do find the ability to go to someone’s door and they’re not in or it’s inconvenient it can leave us feeling worse! Often we feel that we really can’t put into words what we are feeling without others being judgmental, at worst, or just not getting it, at best. People will try to be reassuring or helpful but it often inadvertently makes the one suffering feel like their feelings are not validated. Have you ever said “Oh, don’t be silly, of course you’re [insert platitude here]” to someone who is explaining to you what is troubling them? So, we withdraw our ‘silly’ selves further...
So, instead of sharing this stuff on social media, try calling the people you know who are currently struggling. SHOW them you care! DO something. Be assertive. Be proactive. Call them/private message them/text them and arrange to meet up. Get your diary out so that you can schedule something with them, so they know you’ve set aside time for them, so they don’t worry about imposing at an inconvenient time. And don't give up if they are not quite ready to accept the first time you suggest.
Because they are unlikely to be in a place where they can make the first move. They need to be nurtured, they need to feel worthy. They can’t pour from an empty jug but you can fill it. It’s much easier to accept something that is offered than to ask for something you need, isn’t it?
If you do call, leave a voicemail if they aren’t able to answer. Tell them you will call back. However, your initial contact might be all they need to have the strength to call you back first.
Just don’t expect it.
Of course, I am fairly sure I’ve been just as guilty when others have needed support. And so I resolve to be more mindful about this and make sure I do step up for others.
I do know from experience that the idea behind the quote is actually extremely helpful. It can make a huge difference to be able to share our pain with someone who listens without judgment or conditions. It feels like a weight is lifted and we feel stronger. But to get there we need you to do more than just offer a vague opportunity. We need you to be specific with your offer. You can make a difference.
BUT, and it's a big but. So many of these chain status update things are merely emotional extortion. Yes, I'm afraid it is, no matter how much some might protest.
We are all made to feel like we're insensitive if we don't copy and paste. And some are downright dangerous in terms of scamming or phishing.. I'll leave you to read more about them here: "Repost this if you have a heart. Emotional extortion on Facebook"
Please. stop. Think before you update your status with something you've read on another person's wall. Is it useful? Does it actually make a difference to someone? Like, a tangible difference? if not, maybe you should scroll on by.
If you REALLY want to do something useful and live within Angus, Scotland you might like to sign up for some FREE Suicide Awareness training. I attended a safeTALK workshop a couple of years ago and have since used it to support others. It is my intention to attend the next level, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), later this year. If you live elsewhere you should find providers of these workshops local to you. In Scotland, for example, look up ChooseLife to find your nearest workshop.
Disclaimer: This has become much more pertinent to me following a period of 18 months or so which included the death of a much loved pet and, recently, the death of a parent as well as a myriad of other challenges which sap the strength and confidence. I know that many of us have times like this and many cope better than others. I appreciate that my challenges might feel minor to others, or worse than others, but for each of us our own set of challenges is no more or less worthy of compassion than any others.