One thing that always makes me giggle in a “the world is going to hell” kind of way is that in this age where our lives revolve around ‘social media’ we’re increasingly shit at it – being social.
Think about it – when was the last time, as an adult, you made a new friend that wasn’t a result of a new job or sports team? When was the last time you walked straight up to another adult, started talking to them and became their friend?
I have a 5-year old boy who’s in Kindergarten. He had an assembly yesterday where he was receiving an award for being a Safe, Respectful Learner (proud Dad moment). As with all their assemblies, they sing a few songs and the National Anthem. Chief among these songs is one called “Circle of Friends.” It’s a song that children sing about inclusion.
The last verse of the song is one that sticks with you as a parent:
When you’re on the outside, And you’re looking in.
Life can seem so empty when you don’t fit in.
There is someone out there, Who’s feeling just like you,
Open up your circle, That’s all you have to do.
I’ve watched my Son play at playgrounds at school and out. The ease at which children start a conversation and ‘open up the door’ where ‘there’s always room for one more’ is outstanding.
At what point during human development do we change from honest, open, empathetic creatures into self-indulgent assholes who become so narcissistic that they become purely toxic to anyone around them? Along the same lines, when does society look to these people and lift them up above the rest?!
September, in Australia, is Suicide Awareness month. It’s a month that, to me, should be plastered literally EVERYWHERE. There simply isn’t a bigger issue than suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15-44. At the risk of sounding like ‘another Millenial’ if you subscribe to popular media outlets, the previous statement should be shocking. Surely heart disease, cancer, diabetes or something else gets that top spot? No, no it doesn’t. People thinking that there is no other option does.
Of those who fall victim to the Black Dog, more than three-quarters of them ARE MALE. Oh! I’ve raised another socially taboo subject, Men being more affected by mental health than Women!
At this point, I want to STRESS that I in no way am marginalising Women, nor am I belittling troubles, issues and struggles they are going through.
You can be like our children; be open, welcoming and friendly to everyone that you meet. Literally, you do not know what hells other people are going through.
Where you can, listen not only to what someone is saying but also how that person is saying it. Some of the most troubled are also the most convincing (read: Robin Williams). Provide positive situations for the people around you. Have conversations! Talk about tricky subjects.
When you’re having a beer with your mates, bring up a topic that is going to get everyone thinking and talking. If you’ve noticed a change in the way Darren talks about his life at home, or work – bring it up with him again and listen to the response and how it’s given.
We’ve (blokes) been trained to not talk about feelings and concerns as it’s not macho, or such conversations are for Women. Pushback. Avoid a confrontation about it, but don’t let it be dropped or downplayed if you know the bloke well and there is a change.
Don’t judge a mate. We’ve all been in situations where we find ourselves up shit creek and we don’t even have a boat, either through our own fault or from being dealt a shit hand. Paraphrase and repeat back what they’ve said in your own words, as you understood it. Let them know you get it or at least have heard what they’ve said.
Follow up with them. Don’t let that be the last conversation you have with them. Shoot a text, phone call or SnapChat to them and make sure that they know you actually listened, give a shit and want to see some positive change. Genuine care and compassion are sometimes all that stands in the way.
Tomorrow, September 13th, is National R U Ok day here in Australia. You can go all out and host an event to raise money for the support and management of people having a hard time (funds go to Lifeline), or you can simply have a conversation with a mate that’s been a little ‘off’ lately.