There’s this phrase I keep seeing when a tragic and usually surprising suicide makes the news. And maybe due to recent events and personal experiences, I’ve been seeing it more lately. “Check on your strong friends.” The intention behind this is a good one. Its intention is to say that even the “strongest” people struggle and they might be hiding pain under the surface that you would never know about from the outside. It also implies that “strong” people are the ones who everyone thinks are happy and doing well.
But what is a “strong friend”?
Is the strong friend the one who works multiple jobs and never complains? Is it the one who always has a positive attitude and a smile on their face? Is it the mother who admits that sometimes being a parent is difficult? Is it the guy who goes to the gym every day just to momentarily pause his racing thoughts? Is it the straight-A student? Is it the teenager who is barely passing their classes and is just trying to get through another year of high school? Is it the person who checks themselves into a hospital when they are not doing well? Is it the person who is vulnerable and shares their thoughts with all of their loved ones? Is it the person who never shows any signs of sadness or anxiety?
Is it all of these people?
Maybe strength is getting out of bed in the morning because that is as much as you can do that day. Maybe strength is saying “I’m doing OK.” Maybe it’s admitting that things are not OK. Maybe it’s saying that you need help. Maybe it’s saying you’re fine. Maybe it’s a smile or it’s breaking down in tears just because you need to release whatever is happening inside. Maybe it’s taking a few pills in the morning to help keep the negative thoughts at bay. Maybe it’s doing yoga to ground yourself. Maybe it’s praying for grace.
Yes, we should check in on our “strong friends.” Whatever that category looks like to you. But we should also check in on everyone else. Send a text to the person who crosses your mind. Tell that person who you haven’t spoken to in years that you’re thinking about them and hope they’re well. Tell your friends and family you love them even if there is no special occasion or “reason” to do so. Allow a friend to vent if you have the space. Answer the phone or respond to the message (within reason). Comment on the picture. Send the DM.
Don’t wait for the sake of waiting. Don’t play the invisible game of chicken where you hold out until the other person makes a move first.
Even if that gesture is intimidating or scary, or you’re worried about what the person might think.
Whether the person appears strong, weak, happy, sad, vulnerable, popular, guarded, funny, busy, cheerful, or depressed.
Everyone is strong. Everyone is weak. Everyone could use the check-in, the kind word, the encouragement, the message saying, “You matter to me. Thank you for being in my life and being here.” Sending or saying or writing a message such as that in a world of chaos and cynicism and constant turmoil? That takes strength.
People need other people. You are not weak for wanting or needing support. If you’re seeking professional help, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected]