What I Learned Standing on a Street Corner Attempting to Talk to People about Mental Health

If you follow me on Twitter, which, let’s be honest, you probably don’t, you know I had what I’m loviFullSizeRender-5ngly/pathetically calling a “solo rally” last Saturday to raise awareness about mental health and illness. This was inspired by an incident where my little brother was essentially told he should go to Europe to seek the mental health resources he needs because in this country, he’s shit out of luck. Needless to say, I was fuming, felt totally powerless, went on a massive Twitter rant which left me feeling even more powerless (less powerful?), and just overall bummed as fuck. Not just for my brother but for the millions of people struggling with mental health issues in this nation every year, every damn day.

I decided to do something about it; something which I knew would probably be pretty futile, something which many people, including some of my own family members deemed pointless. I decided to have a solo rally and stand on the corner of Broadway and Briar for three hours on a Saturday morning wearing an informational sign and handing out fact sheets I downloaded from the NAMI website. Here’s what that experience taught me:

  1. Most people ignore other people. This isn’t news to anyone. How many times have you (and I, of course) walked down the street and said not one word to the Greenpeace volunteers saying hello. Look, this is understandable–we are all bombarded by people all the time, asking for something; we have to have some boundaries. That being said, it still sucks and makes you feel pretty invisible and small. It was a good experience to have and I really think I will be more mindful of street-corner folk now.
  2. The people who actually stopped and talked to me were the ones who didn’t actually need to be informed about mental health. More than a handful of people who chatted with me were very aware of the issues surrounding mental illness and the lack of treatment and resources available to those who need it. This was both heartening and somewhat disappointing because it would have been ideal if I could have actually informed someone of something they didn’t know.
  3. Everyone deals with mental illness in their own way. One person who spoke with me very clearly had some issues and he was adamant that I didn’t need to be out there advocating for people with mental illness because he was quite capable of advocating for himself. One person suggested I recommend Scientology and dianetics to those struggling. One person told me to read a book, the name of which I promptly forgot, about the evils of psycho-pharmaceuticals (hard pass). We certainly are each special snowflakes, aren’t we?
  4. I have a lot of feelings. One of them gets hurt when you take a flier from me and say you’ll read it and then crumple it up and throw it in the trashcan two feet away from where I’m standing. Don’t treat people this way.
  5. There are some good people in the world. I was thanked numerous times for what I was doing, helping to raise awareness and shed some light on something that is still very stigmatized. I even had a couple friends stop by, many friends retweet my messaging, and total strangers bless me for my very small good deed. Everything is not terrible all the time, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.

 


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