The power of noticing.

friends-quietly-communicate

There’s a viral video that was circulating around the Internet in the past few months. You may have seen it, or you’ve probably seen your friends talking, tweeting, and Facebooking about it. It’s a teenage love story set in a library with a harrowing twist at the end. 

 

Put out by supporters of the SandyHook community, you should watch it and see for yourselfThen come back and read the rest of this article.

 

Back? Feeling shaken? I’m right there with you. 

 

As this video illustrates, terrible, devastating, tragic things—like gun violence, suicide, and so many other physical and mental health issues—can be prevented if we’re willing to work together, be attentive, and spot the early signs of trouble. We can’t move through our days in a state of negligence or blissful ignorance. We have to open our eyes and notice things. 

 

Sometimes tragedy happens without warning signs. But noticing is powerful. Noticing can save lives.

 

As a physician, a mom, and friend, I’m urging you to…

 

- Notice your body. 

 

Check yourself regularly for anything that looks different or unfamiliar. Is that mole changing in size? Is that a new lump in your breast? Have you been feeling lethargic and foggy-headed lately, but you can’t figure out why? Has your appetite changed? Does your belly give you trouble? Don’t ignore these types of changes—get yourself checked out by a professional. Early detection saves lives. Even if there’s nothing seriously wrong, which is likely, getting a check-up will give you greater peace of mind. 

 

- Notice your community.

 

We all need to pay closer attention to the people around us. Is your co-worker stuck at home with a broken ankle, a bottle of painkillers, and no one to keep her company? Reach out. Do you see someone straining with her groceries, about to slip on the ice in the parking lot? Help out. It’s so easy to stare at our phones and disconnect from everything and everyone, but we all need to do better. A simple inquiry like, “Are you doing all right?” or “May I help you with that?” or “Could I come over tonight?” can make a world of difference.

 

- Most of all: notice isolation.

 

When people are going through a difficult time, they tend to “disappear” and isolate themselves out of anger, grief, shame, or hopelessness. While it’s not always the case, isolation can be a sign that someone is grappling with a serious mental illness. As Harvey Fierstein wrote after Robin Williams’ tragic suicide, “Depression [is] merciless. All it wants is to get you in a room alone and kill you.”

 

If someone in your life seems to be withdrawing and isolating himself, don’t be a passive bystander. Check in. Say something. You don’t have to be nosy or intrusive, but at the very least, say, “Hey, are you doing OK?” At least you’ll know that you reached out and tried to make contact. That’s better than taking no action at all.

 

Here in the Midwest, we tend to be stoic, reserved people. We may tell ourselves “It’s none of my business, and we don’t want to intrude.” But that type of attitude can weaken our communities and take a toll on our health. We’re all part of the human family, and we have a shared responsibility to take good care of ourselves and one another. Let’s  make it “our business” to do so.

 

~Dr. Sue

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