Two thoughts converged in my pandemic-rattled head today.
- I’ve seen lots of people responding to the question of if they personally know anyone who has died, or even tested positive and gotten sick from COVID-19, with comments like “My coworker’s cousin tested positive”, or something similar. Which makes me wonder about people. A disease that seems to inflict more intense illness to older people, people with other conditions, and the poor, and there are a lot of people who don’t know anyone who’s died.. Hmm. Have you seen these “polls” going around social media?
- This story about Sean Astin and his reasons for being a mental health advocate. Namely, his Mom, Patty Duke, and her struggle with bipolar disorder.
Why do I see these two things as related? Well. let’s start with Sean Astin. It’s hard not to think that he has lived an amazingly privileged life. He’s been famous since he was a little kid, after growing up part of Hollywood royalty. If anyone has the means to shelter himself away from the harder topics of life, he’s one of those people. But he chooses not to, because he’s seen first hand what it is like to life with, and love someone with, mental health issues. That experience drives him to advocacy. He wants to share what it was like, and help others watching a mental health condition tear apart their own family.
In short, he gets it because he knows.
The same seems to be true when it comes to how serious COVID-19 really is. It seems to me there are a lot of people thinking it’s not very serious because well, no one they know has died or anything serious. 130,000 “other people” have died in the US. On the other hand, there are those of us who do know people who’ve died, or spent time hospitalized, and tend to take it very seriously. Because we know. We’ve seen it. We’ve grieved because of it.
The trick, whether you want to talk about public health issues like Covid-19 or mental health issues, is getting people to understand that it happens to anyone, anywhere. People like them, people they know. Because something about our brain changes when it’s someone we know, and we can see it, experience it, live with it.
So, as scary as it may be, if you’re in a place where you can tell your story to the people you know, you’ll be doing a great service. You will be letting them know that it isn’t just “other people”, it’s people they know and care about. People they may even want to advocate for. People who may help them understand mental health issues better, and inspire them to educate themselves.
That would be awesome.
Or, they could still decide they don’t care, because some people just refuse to come out of their little worldview. But that’s another problem, and maybe we can just ignore those folks. 😉