September / October 2016
By Alyssa Baker
Let’s try something together for a moment. I want to invite you to find a favorite photo or painting nearby. Got it? Perfect. Remember how much you love that image! Really take it in. Now, place your nose up against the painting or photo. What do you see? Probably a lot of nothing. Maybe your eyes are straining, colors are blending together; it seems confusing and impossible to make sense of the image from this vantage point. Now, I invite you to take a few steps back, or bring the photo further away from your face. Is the image becoming clearer now? Hopefully it is beginning to make sense again. Your eyes feel more relaxed, and maybe you’re seeing a greater meaning in this photo or painting. Now, finally, step away to get the entire beautiful view. Wow, thank goodness there is more! Now, the image seems beautiful, meaningful, and complete.
When I think of Depression, this is what it feels like to me. Sometimes our perspective is so narrow that even the most meaningful and beautiful life seems totally pointless, miserable, and hopeless. Unfortunately, some people never get the chance to step away from the photo and see the full beauty. Often, it is in this hopeless confusion that loved ones or friends take their own lives. If only they could have seen the image from our point of view.
I have been deeply moved lately to see suicide awareness on social media, commercials, billboards, and more. The #22pushupchallenge on social media has been especially eye opening. Friends, family, and coworkers have been doing 22 push-ups daily for 22 days to raise awareness that, on average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Shocking, right? How exhausting it must be to fight for joy when you are fighting for your country. If our veterans were able to step away from their image of life, what would they see? Would they see a community that loves, honors, and respects them? Would they see the greater purpose and meaning in their pain? Let’s make sure they do. Let us make it clear that fighting for a single step away from their image will reveal a glimmer of hope and clarity.
Another group that is always on my mind is our teenagers. Being a teen is tough, and not in an “Oh, their hormones are just all over the place; they’ll get over it!” kind of way. They are fighting peer pressure, insecurity, bullying, and pressure to perform in school and/or athletics. Did you know that kids are expected to have an idea about what college they will go to in junior high, if not sooner? I remember my junior high self, and wow did that girl have trouble making healthy decisions. Sometimes, it feels like someone is holding your face up to that photo or painting, and you cannot come up for air. There is no clarity. There is no beauty. There is only pain and confusion. Suicide can happen so easily here.
Let us be a community who will fight for joy. We cannot fight alone. We all need someone to help rip us away from this up-close view of our lives to give us hope and perspective. It is possible. Suicide is terrible and scary, but we have got to talk about it. Gaining awareness gives us an upper hand in this fight against depression and suicide. Take the first step away from the photo or painting. It gets better.