Smiling at Strangers


You know when something awful happens in the world and you wish there was something you could have done? When the world seems full of atrocity and pain and anguish and you feel like an insignificant dot of plankton floating around in an huge, scary cold ocean without purpose? I know it’s not just me who feels like this on a fairly regular basis. I also know that I am important and I do make a difference and I’ve written about this here and here.

Reading back through past posts can help me remember.

This morning I woke up to the news that Robin Williams lost his battle with depression and seemingly decided to take his own life. Hearing stories like this always feel like a punch in my stomach. People who’ve never experienced depression or supported someone through it won’t know the dark depths it takes you to. I pray they never will.

Supporting someone through depression is hard enough, but what about all of the people who are suffering in silence? What can we do to help them? One in four people in the UK suffer with some kind of mental illness and many of them are suffocated by stigma. They feel ashamed, alone and frightened to tell anyone.

This is where we can help. We can all help. You see, we don’t need to wait until somebody “comes out” about their depression or other mental illness. We don’t even need to know about it at all.

We just need to be kind.

Nice to people.

Cut them some slack.

Smile at strangers…. We don’t know what they’re going through…. We have no idea what their demons are but a smile from you might be the highlight of someone’s day. One kind word from a stranger might be be enough to restore somebody’s faith in human nature…. It could give them the strength to get through one more day. One more dark night.

I shared a post on my personal Facebook page this morning. As with every time I speak publicly (or at least virtually) about my own struggles I received a message from yet another friend struggling with depression and afraid to tell anyone. We discussed medication and treatment and he said to me: “I’d never have guessed you were ill. You always seem so happy”.

And there you have it, friends. Some of us are masters at hiding our pain from others, for many reasons. Sometimes to protect out loved ones and save them worry and other times out of fear and shame. You can never tell what a person is going through.

There is always something we can do. There’s always a small ripple to be created. It starts with us. You and me. We can do something. We can smile at strangers. We can and we should and we absolutely must…because lives may well depend on it and love simply has to win. Only bright light can chase away shadows.

If you are suffering and need help, please know that it is out there for you. You matter and you are loved. Please call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.


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