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Authentic Advocacy

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Shulanda J. Hastings

Ambassador Shulanda

Ambassador Shulanda

Shulanda J. Hastings is an inspirational writer, Christian counselor and an ambassador to the faith-based community; helping them break mental health barriers. She is the author of the Beauty of My Thorns novel series and of the memoirs, Keeping My Faith While Saving My Mind.

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“You matter.”

“We care.”

“I love you.”

These are phrases that are frequently used and this month I have seen them even more on social media sites.

WHY?

National Suicide Prevention Week and Day are recognized in the month of September. I realize everyone is not an active advocate as myself and many others, so I can appreciate the minor steps that others take to bring awareness. Even if it is only for one day or two out of the year. However, I believe those willing to advocate should do so from where they are in life. One shouldn’t feel obligated to say or do things that they don’t mean, don’t understand or cannot commit to.

Because when someone says, “You matter” to someone who feel as though no one thinks he does, do they matter only in that moment?

When someone tells you, “We care”, who is the ‘we’ they are referring to? Is it family, friends or church members and have they truly made you feel as though they care before now?

When someone declares to someone drowning in fear, pain and agony that “I love you” is it only valid in that moment and meant to get them through that hour or that day?

When you feel overwhelmed by life and the very thought of living suspends you in fear, you don’t need those words to be thrown around for a moment, day, week or month. Yes, this might help. It might help pacify the problem. But when you are the recipient of these negative emotions you not only need to hear these popular phrases, you need to believe them. If they are only said by people who need to make themselves feel better or not guilty it won’t mean anything to the person who needs 100% authenticity.

People with REAL issues need REAL help.

So now, if you have been one of the ones changing your Facebook statues with advocacy messages, creating pins for Pinterest and uploading thought-provoking pictures on Instagram, thank you for taking a bold step to bring awareness to such needed causes as suicide prevention. But if you really want your actions to have positive effects, I challenge you to do more to help those actually hurting. This doesn’t mean you need to go and become a therapist and try to save the world.

You help hurting people by being real with yourself.

You might be saying, “I thought advocacy was about others and not me.”

Advocacy is about helping others and sometimes that includes yourself. But in order to help others you have to be real with yourself. Allow me to give examples through a couple of interrogatories:

• On a regularly basis, do you come in contact with someone who is apparently having a difficult time getting passed a difficult situation such as divorce or death? Do you reach out to them or post something on your social media site hoping they will miraculously read it and receive help?

• Do you have a family member who deals with a mood disorder like anxiety of depression? Do you try to help them by listening to them and trying to understand their perspective OR do you try to belittle them and make sure they don’t embarrass you around others?

• When you hear others talking about mental illnesses in an ignorant manner, do you try to educate them?

• When someone ask you if you have ever felt depressed do you honestly admit to situations that have caused you to feel depressed or do you stand proudly on the fact that you have never felt that way and don’t understand how anyone could?

The questions could continue. The point that I’m trying to make is simple: You can’t genuinely advocate for others on a one time basis. Sincerity is evident to causes that truly matter to you. It will compel you to do something whenever the opportunity presents itself and cause you to create opportunities to make a difference.

Now, I hope I haven’t totally discouraged you from being an advocate. The world definitely needs you. So please do continue your advocacy, but do it from a place of realness. Do it from within your reach and capabilities. Your advocacy could include connecting others to other people or places for help. You might be the listening ear to someone going through. You just might need to be the loud voice to a silent cry.

Whatever your role in advocacy make it authentic.

Because what hurting people don’t need is another false hope.


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