Break the Awkward.
It's not that people don't want to help, it's usually just a matter of them not knowing what to say to break the ice or their fear of not knowing how to respond if the person they're talking to decides to open up about their own mental health. If you went around asking random strangers, "If I told you that you could save someone's life by saying just a few simple words to them, would you be interested in helping?", I guarantee the majority of people would say, "Yes." That's what we have on our side in this fight against mental illnesses and suicide: the good in all of us. There are a lot of illnesses, diseases, and worldly issues (i.e. cancer, starvation, lack of access to fresh water etc.) that require money and donations to fund research for cures, to help families with the cost of treatments, and to provide people with the necessary means to survive. At Wik Brothers, we know that the power that each of us possess to change how we as a society think about mental illnesses is just as effective, if not more effective, than donating funds to an organization.
Now before everyone starts asking, "Well why did you donate over 30% of profits this past year to organizations that center their efforts around suicide prevention and mental illness awareness?", there is a lot to be said about what the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is doing in regards to the issues that we are supporting. The donations to AFSP go towards, "funding research to improve interventions, train clinicians in suicide prevention, and advocate for policy that will save lives", along with setting up countless events throughout the year across the entire country that bring suicide survivors and those who have lost loved ones together to support one another. We are all fighting the same battle, just in different ways.
We have to realize though that unlike some controversial issues, mental illnesses and suicide can affect any person no matter their race, social class, or economic class. It does not discriminate and it does not play favorites. If we all took a second to educate ourselves on what mental illnesses are, what the stigma associated with them is, and how to respond to someone who approaches you with a mental health issue, then there would be no awkwardness. Without turning this into a lecture, here are a couple of things that you can do the next time that the opportunity to talk about mental health comes up:
1. Let the person know that you support all of those struggling with mental illnesses and those affected by suicide
2. Give them the opportunity to talk and open up, but don't press the issue
3. Listen patiently and show respect and understanding for how they describe their experience with mental health issues
4. Genuinely express your concern to improve either their situation or to improve the lives of those who are struggling
5. Avoid downplaying their feelings or assuming you know more about their situation than they do--be compassionate and understanding.
This may seem like a lot of things to remember, but the majority of these points revolve around being compassionate, being a good listener, and being understanding of someone else's situation. Over the past year and a half that we've been wearing Wik Brothers bow ties, we have crossed paths with many strangers and even though our conversations may only last a couple of minutes or less, by hitting on each of these points we were able to not only open up about our personal struggles with mental illnesses and suicide, but the other person felt comfortable enough to open up about their own experiences. Whether you have been personally affected or not, by taking that first step and creating a comfortable and safe situation to talk about mental health, you'll be surprised at how much you can positively affect someone else's life in such a short amount of time.
In conclusion, I leave you with this question: If I told you that you could save someone's life by saying just a few simple words to them, would you be interested in helping? On average, there are 123 suicides per day and for every suicide, 25 more are attempted. You never know what someone else may be going through. If you don't know how to break the ice, grab a Wik Brothers piece and wear it loud and proud for all to see. Sometimes a simple, "I wear this in support of all those who are struggling with mental illnesses and those affected by suicide", can go a long way.