How to save a life

Monday morning quarterbacking is so easy, isn’t it? It doesn’t ever change the game, though – – no matter how very badly you want it to.

Your task this holiday season is to reach out to that person you know – – and we all know one – – the one who needs help…or struggles…or the one who is different, or doesn’t fit in. That person who doesn’t feel good enough. The one who is depressed and feels shame in talking about it. Reach out to that person and talk – and listen. Really listen….and then engage.

That doesn’t mean that it’s all on you to solve their problem – but you just never really know what a difference a willing, honest and open ear can make to someone who is in pain. It’s not for you to judge them and it’s not on you to cure them .. but what if a few moments of your time and a well-intentioned ear helped them get something off their chest … or helped them sort something out, internally … what if that prevented something awful? Or what if it is the impetus for that person to realize that they are not in this life alone and that other people really do care…and really can help.

You call yourself a friend? Then be one. Stop being afraid of behaviors that are different. Stop being ashamed of illness that affects our mental health. Human beings are fragile and mental illness is not a sign of weakness or unworthiness, nor it it a sign that the person afflicted with mental illness is somehow…..less than. Mental illness is a sign that something is wrong – – not unlike symptoms of the common cold, or cancer….something is wrong that needs treatment.

None of us … not a single one of us .. is immune and not one of us deserves a seat on the high horse in life from where we can point fingers of blame and spout solutions without action.

The solution, if it exists, is multi-faceted – but primarily, the solution is organic and it starts with you… with me…reaching out to help …. or reaching out to ask for help, if it is in our capacity to do so.

Mental health is so overwhelming with no easy answers. But it is society’s problem and if you can help, even just a bit, why wouldn’t you try, instead of waiting and hoping that someone, somewhere will legislate it away?

Please just do what you can to try and help someone who has lost their way. As part of the greater community – we owe ourselves that much.

Listening is easy and it is a good first step for those of us who feel helpless in the face of senseless tragedy.


National Institute of Mental Health

Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illness through research.

Gift Fund
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8104, MSC 9655
Bethesda, MD 20892-9655

A letter should be sent along with the check indicating that the donation is to be used for research and related activities at NIMH. If a contribution is to be made as a memorial, please indicate the name of the deceased as well as a name and address of the individual to whom an acknowledgment can be sent. All donors are acknowledged.

If you are considering a bequest in a will, the will should show the address of the National Institute of Mental Health to avoid confusion about your intentions. Again, the will should indicate that the bequest is to be used to support the research and related activities of NIMH.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to write to the address above or call the NIMH Financial Management Branch at (301) 443-3704.

6 Responses to “How to save a life”

  1. Chris Lema says:

    Great advice & post!

  2. Dre says:

    Great post, Lisa!

  3. philerb says:

    Great advice Lisa! It’s often the seemingly smallest things that make the biggest difference, whether we realize it or not.

  4. Cory Miller says:

    Lisa, thank you for this! We need more people talking … AND doing something about mental health and helping others who are hurting.

    Now back to my homework you gave me … thinking about that one person you mentioned talking to.

  5. Miison says:

    That’s a brilliant post! I hope that it has encouraged a lot of your readers (and others) to this. I think that your right that it’s not anyones responsibilty to solve someone else problem, but the small things can actuallt make a huge different. It can be anyything from just taking the time, to listen, talk or to just letting that someone forget about their troubles for a moment by having a good laugh together.

  6. Jacob Tanner says:

    This is a great post and it kind of hit home for me. I volunteer to help with groups that support the same thing you do.

    Although it may help to check the text type on this page, it is hard for me to read on Google Chrome, just a suggestion but thanks for the words!