Photo by Niel S. Cody
This morning, this picture popped up in my Facebook feed as a memory from 12 years ago. My friend made this for me as a cover photo, because I had recently gotten divorced and felt like I was going to spend the rest of my life alone with lots of cats.
I told the same thing to my now-partner at the time, and he told me, "Well, you already have one cat. You're on your way."
Photo by I Waste So Much Time
Around the same time, another friend sent me this meme. I suppose after a while, you don't just need cats to take the pain away, you need wine too?
We see these memes on Facebook or other social media and we laugh, but many of us do have secret pain that we hide away from the world. It can come from our own relationship struggles, family relationships, or lack of support in general.
In the United States today, there is an Epidemic of Loneliness. People have fewer close friends than ever before. I was told that the show Friends would never air today, because it just isn't realistic for people to have so many close friends. It is really sad when you think about it. We are getting more and more isolated.
Add this to a host of other social problems that we are facing such as war, poverty, racism, gender inequality, homelessness, climate change and more in our society, and is it any wonder that so many people suffer from depression and other mental health issues? Mental health on the decline is a symptom of larger systemic issues at play.
Rates of mental illness are increasing in society as a whole, especially since the pandemic, although it was a problem before that as well.
According to the World Health Organization,
In 2020, the number of people living with anxiety and depressive disorders rose significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial estimates show a 26% and 28% increase respectively for anxiety and major depressive disorders in just one year.
This is a disturbing trend, and a problem that cannot be addressed overnight. Many people lost a loved one during the pandemic, and healing from grief can cause additional mental stress.
According to Amaresh Muddebihal,
Social difficulties and mental health are closely related. A person's mental health may suffer as a result of social issues including homelessness, violence, discrimination, inequality, poverty, and lack of access to healthcare. These issues may lead to an increase in stress, anxiety, melancholy, and other mental diseases.
With all of the problems in the world today, it is no surprise that more people than ever are being diagnosed with mental health conditions. Disorders like Anxiety and Depression are the body and the mind's way of reacting to an ever increasing amount of stress being thrown at us on a daily basis. This is both a combination of individual stressors, and social ills on a larger scale.
In order to properly address the mental health concerns of a growing number of people worldwide, we need to not only target individual treatment, but social healing on a larger scale. Treating individual mental health needs, while important, is not addressing the root cause of such issues.
It is perfectly normal for people to become depressed when they feel like life is hopeless. Since we are trapped into this patriarchal, capitalist hellscape, it makes sense that there would be a growing sense of hopelessness in the world overall. We wonder, how can we possibly change our lives when the world is going up in flames?
To address this general sense of malaise that has descended over so many of us, we need to find ways to not only care for ourselves, but to take action for social justice. Of course, if you are depressed this may feel impossible, especially on days that you struggle to get out of bed.
Becoming involved in a cause on a local level through volunteering is one way that we can all try to make a difference. We can participate in awareness campaigns, by sharing through word of mouth and on social media. We can also donate money to worthy causes if we have it available.
According to the University of Kansas, here are 15 ways to Advance Social Justice:
Examine your beliefs and habits.
Educate yourself about social justice issues.
Discover your local organizations.
Take positive action in your own community.
Harness the power of social media.
Attend demonstrations and protests.
Get involved with politics through civic engagement.
Make your voice heard on local radio
Investigate what’s happening at local colleges or universities.
Support minority-owned businesses in your community and online.
Support artists, writers, and activists who speak out against injustices.
Be kind, understanding, and compassionate.
As you begin to take action on social justice issues, it is ok to start small. You can start with talking to friends and family members about important issues, educating yourself about the things that matter to you and getting used to speaking your mind.
The more you speak up about social justice causes, the more you are helping to create hope and healing in the world for many people. Supporting people who feel marginalized can go a long way towards equity and inclusion for all. When you set an example of doing the right thing, and having the hard conversations, you can make a positive impact on those around you, and give them strength to do the same.
At the very least, if we don't have time or money to offer to something outside of our own sphere, we can offer kindness to everyone with whom we come in contact. This can go a long way towards making the world a better place, as the actions that we take help to radiate kindness out into the world.
A Call to Action
I challenge you to think about how you can begin to make a difference in the world. If nothing else, you can read up on causes that are important to you whether it is mental health, the Black Lives Matter movement, climate change or something else. There are many important causes worth supporting.
As you learn something new, you can share worthwhile news articles on social media. You can start conversations with your friends and family. It may seem like a small thing to do, but people are more likely to listen to someone they know and trust. Making an impact in your small circle creates change that can radiate outward from you into the world.
Think about it this week: What can you do to make the world a better place? Let me know in the comments!