By Penny Sitler, Executive Director
Sitler: Some Positive Takeaways In the Wake of Tragedy
In the week before the June 10 Tony Awards, which celebrated excellence in Broadway theater, our world lost two well-known people, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, to suicide.
Both were public figures, each a shining star in their respective worlds of fashion and cooking, travel and television. Much was said on social media and in news stories that followed. An impactful message came from David Cromer, the Tony Award-winning director of the musical The Band’s Visit. He used his acceptance speech as a platform to make a plea to anyone who was watching to help themselves and others who are suffering from mental illness. Following are his words:
“The Band’s Visit concerns itself with people who, due to loneliness, isolation, may have started to lose hope. I wish that I had the words or the wisdom to say to the people out there whose despair is overwhelming their hope, I wish I had the way to convince them to continue to keep trying to have hope, to find the patience. If you are suffering please, please call out and for those of us fortunate not to be suffering so deeply, let’s make sure that we answer them.”
Mr. Cromer was visibly shaken and emotional while speaking, and I applaud his courage and selflessness in standing up before his peers to use his special moment to share this message. I look forward to the day when everyone treats mental illness with the same care and concern that is routinely given to heart disease, cancer and broken bones. Illness is illness, whether physical or mental, and everyone deserves the same compassion and opportunities for intervention and treatment.
Hope is an important factor that helps people have resiliency, that ability to bounce back from life’s difficulties. If someone asks you for help while they’re struggling with mental illness, providing that person with hope for a better future can be a game changer. Let people know you’re there for them, you care and you’ll help in any way you can. Offer encouragement and let them know you’re glad they’re alive. Suggest calling our county’s local 2-1-1 Crisis Hotline and Information Center of Pathways or texting your zip code to 898211 if you feel the need for a trained professional’s help in having this conversation with a person in your life.
In the weeks following the recent tragic deaths, it’s encouraging that crisis hotlines and texting services have experienced a double digit increase in calls and texts. That means people are reaching out to get help for themselves or others who need it. Perhaps our society is gradually chipping away at the fear or embarrassment that surrounds mental illness so people will feel as comfortable asking for help when they experience a mental health issue as they do when they have a physical ailment.