I think we see a pattern here with the research. All interactions and connections with other people make a difference:
“All of [these micro-encounters] seem to affirm our belonging, seem to affirm that we are seen and recognized by others, even the most casual contact,” says psychiatrist Dr. Robert Waldinger at Massachusetts General Hospital.”
Let’s put this into some real-world applications. We know there is a pandemic of anxiety and depression out there. We know that the suicide rate in the US is going up to unprecedented levels. Every time we are out in public there’s a fairly decent chance that someone we come across, the barista, the person standing behind us in line, the store clerk, a coworker, friends, etc. is dealing with some kind of mental health issue. They probably don’t talk about it to even their closest friend, let alone a casual person they run into during their day.
We also know that even the most casual of encounters can act as a reminder that someone is seen, and is a part of the greater world. Those encounters can make the difference between feeling complete isolation and feeling the tiniest bit of hope that we belong in this world for at least another day.
The math seems pretty simple here. We lose nothing by being kind and friendly. We might all gain enough to prevent the loss of another life. Suicide Prevention might involve some huge programs and resources, but it can start right here in how we interact with even our most casual connections.