If the title of this post sounds familiar to you, it was also the tagline for Spiderman on Broadway, which I learned from Levi Lusko’s book about coping with the loss of his daughter. It’s a great concept, right? We always talk about turning off the lights, but what about turning off the dark? Imagine if we spent more of our energy focused on using social media to turn off the dark, rather than always trying to turn off the lights and get into arguments with others. How the world would change if we used such a powerful tool to positively influence and encourage others. What if instead of hearing about suicides due to cyberbullying on the news, we started hearing about lives being saved through someone reaching out and providing healing words to someone struggling via social media. It’s possible. I promise.
I have been shocked this month over the statistics being shared around suicides being higher than car accident deaths and murders combined, with the pandemic only making things worse. I mean, seriously? What is wrong with this picture? Why are we not out there helping our fellow human beings every chance we get and turning off the dark for them? It is also concerning to me how many copycat suicides happen as a result of high-profile suicides such as Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s. A super successful publicist committed suicide in the exact same way Kate Spade did, just a few weeks later. Chefs have been rumored to have committed suicide days after Anthony Bourdain. THIS IS A PROBLEM.
And it is one that each of us has the power to address with a simple but powerful tool called social media. Just by changing our posts to be positive and by proactively reaching out when we see a depressing post on social, we can start a wave of positive change. Note, I said ‘proactive.’ This is something a lot of people seem to be missing when they want to help prevent future suicides. I’ve seen a lot of statuses that are sharing the suicide helpline. That is wonderful and definitely helpful. However, someone who is struggling to turn off the darkness themselves needs you to proactively insert yourselves into their lives and help them turn off that switch. They most likely will not call that number, but rather will listen to a friend who genuinely cares and notices that they are not their usual selves. And they need that genuine friend to constantly reach out and be there. That means you need to not only check in on them once and pat yourself on the back, but you need to always check-in and be a partner for them as they learn how to flip that switch on their own.
I had some darkness turned on recently when I started chemotherapy for endometriosis which led to a hysterectomy at 30. It’s painful, feels hopeless at times, and is a constant battle for me to stay positive. I can tell you that my friends and family have been a major support system for me. The Friday night after my first chemo, four of my friends showed up at my house and would not leave. They watched me go back and forth from the couch to the bathroom and did everything in their power to make sure I was okay. They brought over my favorite magazines, favorite gum, ice cream. They told jokes and make me laugh. Anthony Bourdain had just committed suicide and they brought that up and then did a mental health check on all of us. We all talked about how we were emotionally feeling and made it clear that we were there for each other, even at 3 AM when things felt hopeless. Since that meeting, we have all used each other to lean on through our own battles. It has been a beautiful thing.
Now I have friends who reach out to me if they don’t hear from me every single day. They will blow up my phone until I call them back and give them a status update. When I was on chemo they would talk me through all of my options and make me feel better about all of them, no matter which one I choose. My family and friends didn’t hesitate to just show up at my house if I was having a particularly rough day with throwing up and all of the side effects I was experiencing.
Notice, these people did not give me a phone number to call if my symptoms got worse. They showed up and they made sure I was okay, without me having to get their attention at all. The same needs to be done for people experiencing mental health issues. While my chemo is definitely not the same thing, healing is healing no matter what someone is experiencing, and a great source of healing comes from a proactive support system.
So when someone’s Facebook post feels a little off to you, or someone is not tweeting as often as you have seen them tweet in the past, or someone looks a little frailer than usual in a photo they share >> REACH OUT. No matter where you are in the world, proactively check in on them and let them know that you care. And then check in on them again, and again, and again.
Every time you proactively reach out to someone in pain, you are lighting a spark, and sparks grow into flames, and flames have the beautiful power of turning off the dark.