Yes, it’s May, and that means it’s Mental Health Month, one of the times of the calendar year where we try and share stories, resources, and the life the voices of those struggling with their own mental health.
I sat down this week to do an interview with Ron Rapaport, host of the It’s a Wrap podcast. You can take a listen to it here, and also check out some of the other inspiring guests Ron has been interviewing since starting his podcast! As always, if you are a podcast host and…
What I want to address, however, is how our society defines victim, and how it leaves far, far too many people behind. That article above is a great example. How many people, if asked about sex trafficking, picture little white girls or women abducted from Target? Probably a lot. For many, the only real information they’ve ever gotten about trafficking are warnings about Target or shopping mall parking lots from their Facebook friends. They don’t know how many teenage boys from broken homes, living in poverty, are pulled into being trafficked. How many gay youths, rejected by their families, fall victim to it. How many immigrant children here with no parental supervision, are sold off by the people who should be protecting them, into sexual slavery.
Those stories, even if they’re told, are not going to grab national headlines. They are not going to evoke world-wide outrage and sympathy. Those are things that happen to “other people”. We might even be tempted to start looking for reason why it’s their own fault, or at least the parents fault, right?
From a media perspective, we also have to keep this in mind. An abduction of a young white girl from her home, is a rare event. It’s actually newsworthy because it happens so rarely. When it happens, it’s shocking. A trans, minority, teen being coerced into selling themselves, with no one to turn to for protection, isn’t any of those things. A gay male teen being kicked out of their parents house and trying to make it through homelessness, is also not something that happens so rarely that there would be major news coverage of it. These things happen all of the time. So often, that they aren’t really news.
So, which group should we have support and services for? I’d like to vote for ALL OF THEM. But that will take educating people about the reality of who gets abused, who gets trafficked, and for us all to accept that it happens everywhere. Until we get there, and are willing to see all different types of people as victims, we will continue to fail one group or another. That’s not acceptable.
The people who helped me, and continue to help me, are the ones who will ask me questions and then just listen. They want to hear my story, even though they can’t fix it. They know that they can help by just giving me a space to tell my story, without worrying about the need to fight off their attempts at fixing something that may or may not be relevant at all to my situation. (i.e. I’m glad your cousin felt better after a walk in the forest, but that’s not what is happening here!)
So please, just listen. Make the space around you, even if it’s virtual, a safe space for your friends and loved ones to tell their stories. Find small ways to help, if you can, but also know that by just listening, just sitting with our stories, you are already helping so much.
This is really my biggest problem. Sometimes, sadness, grief, anger, and uncertainty are entirely appropriate, so why are we telling people to ignore those emotions?
Look at it this way, when we watched George Floyd’s death on video, we all felt something, and it probably wasn’t all that pleasant. Or, when we read the overwhelming number of deaths from COVID, we felt something. Maybe we all didn’t feel exactly the same thing, but we all felt something, and maybe most of all we felt a need to do something about it. If we had simply flipped the page and focused on what we are grateful for, we weren’t changing anything, we aren’t doing the things we need to do to keep ourselves safe and well. We are just ignoring it.
Grateful for another chance to talk to fellow survivors on this week’s episode of the Blue Radio Show Podcast. Thanks to Helia for reaching out and asking me to share my story. You can listen to the audio on either the YouTube above, or on Spotify, and check out the other episodes where Helia has…