The recent public cry for help by Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson brought a rare moment of unity in the divisive world of social media.
If it showed us anything, it's that we care. Not only do we care – we openly care.
On Saturday, the 25-year-old actor took to Instagram with a grim message, "I really don't want to be on this earth anymore. I'm doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don't know how much longer I can last. All I've ever tried to do was help people. Just remember I told you so."
And almost immediately, he was met with support from every corner of the virtual world.
Liberal actress Jada Pinkett Smith and conservative television host Meghan McCain were among those who sent their love.
Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw, R-TX, even called the young comedian on the phone. The two recently formed an unlikely relationship after Davidson came under attack for poking fun of Crenshaw's eye patch during a pre-election episode of SNL. Davidson apologized and the two appeared together on SNL in a remarkable display of forgiveness.
That's why Crenshaw felt compelled to call when he heard about Davidson's post. "God put you here for a reason. It's your job to find that purpose," Crenshaw told Davidson. "Know that you have value," he continued.
It seems we're getting comfortable talking about our mental health.
That's a good thing since nearly one in five US adults lives with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. We're slowly chipping away at the ice block and washing away the stink of stigma.
Celebrities are doing their part, documenting their struggles in real time – Selena Gomez, Kanye West, Fergie, Charlamagne tha god, Chrissy Teigen, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga to name a few.
Christians are also doing their part, proving we can turn to Jesus AND therapy for guidance.
So now that we care, (internet trolls notwithstanding) the question is, 'How do we show it?' By saying we're there? What does that mean, really?
As someone who suffers from panic disorder, it's nice to know people are there. And when my friends say as much, I know they mean it. But I also see the apprehension in their eyes as they search for the right thing to say when I attempt to explain the unexplainable; like why I can't bear to go to that crowded grocery store at the moment.
I don't have the answers, so I turned to someone who might. Christian therapist and Regent University Graduate Shyrielane Watson says it starts with empathy.
Amber Strong: Your friend tells you they diagnosed with depression/ anxiety. What is your next response?
Shyrielane Watson: 1. Respond with empathy – example: "Thanks for sharing your diagnosis with me." "I imagine it was not easy for you to share this me."
2. Be supportive – example: "How can I support you through this?" Assure them, "Your depression/anxiety diagnoses does not change the way I feel about you."
3. Presence – example: Call your friend regularly to check-in so they do not feel alone after the initial conversation.
4. Be a container – Give your friend somewhere to put the anxiety or depression by listening without judgment and validating what you can. Be genuine and do not lie to your friend saying things like, "I understand" if you really do not understand. Also, avoid problem-solving for your friend. Instead, encourage your friend to work with his/her professional treatment team to address the anxiety and depression.
5. Self-Awareness – Manage your own feelings of powerlessness to help your friend. Avoid saying unhelpful comments such as, "you just need to pray more", etc. This will discourage the tendency to avoid the person with mental health issues because you do not feel you can help them.
Strong: How do you react when a friend posts something troubling on social media that leads you to believe they may be considering suicide?
Watson: 1. Stay calm.
2. Reach out to your friend and express concern: "When you talk like this, I get concerned about your safety." "You seem different lately." "What's going on with you?" "Are you having suicidal thoughts?" Assess how serious the situation is: "Have you thought of ways to commit suicide?"
3. Encourage your friend to seek help by calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline or the local crisis response system's hotline so the mobile crisis team (MCT) or emergency services pre screeners (depending on location) can respond to your friend's home if needed.
4. If your friend has a plan to commit suicide and is refusing help. Call 911 for immediate assistance. Many police departments have trained Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers or work with MCT (licensed clinicians) to involuntarily commit (i.e. hospitalize) your friend.
The holidays are here. And they can be a special kind of tough. As our brother the Apostle John instructed us: let's love and care, "Not just in word, but in action."
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide: Call the National Suicide Hotline 24/7 1-800-273-8255