MENTAL HEALTH MONTH... This Week at UCCW
“Through the Sunflower Fields” from MOTHER 3 (© 2006 by Nintendo), artist unknown. [source: https://imgur.com/0Q1QT]
“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming.” --Pablo Neruda
[CW: suicide, mental illness]
If the Easter season teaches us anything, it’s that stories matter.
For instance, my partner has been catching me up, movie by movie, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so we can go to Avengers: Endgame this weekend. (She already saw it day-of-release, of course. No spoilers!) Although they can be over-the-top at times, I believe these films have resonated with so many millions of viewers because they speak to the human capacity for selflessness and heroism. They connect to the hero in each of us and invite us to be more caring and courageous in our everyday lives.
On the flipside of that, a recent study found a startling spike in suicide among young people after the release of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, about a teenage girl who dies by suicide onscreen. According to a report by NPR:
When the show debuted, the National Association of School Psychologists issued a warning statement: “We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies," they said.
As we enter Mental Health Awareness Month, I am keenly aware that 20 percent of Americans live with a diagnosed mental illness. (Indeed, I’m one of them.) I am also keenly aware that rates of death by suicide are disproportionately higher among women, Native Americans, residents of rural areas, veterans, and LGBTQ youth. Groups that have too often been fed stories of isolation and inferiority.
This month, I invite us to think more deeply about the stories we consume as well as the stories we tell. Will we tell stories of fear and despair… or stories of heroism and hope? Will we tell stories hat denigrate and dehumanize… or stories that affirm our inherent worth and dignity as the Children of God? In short, will we tell Empire stories… or tell Easter stories?
May we hold each other close this month and always. May we be kind, knowing that everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle, whether they live with mental illness or not. And may we remind one another that it does, in fact, get better—that despair is never the end of the story—that we are loved. Without exception. Without condition.
QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK: Has mental illness touched your life or the life of someone you love? What are some of your favorite stories of hope and heroism? How can we better support one another each other in our struggles?