This post is a compulsion off the news of the death of Stephen tWitch Boss, who was DJ and co-producer for the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
He was a dancer who rose to fame on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Condolences are never easy to conjure, for how does one comfort a grieving wife, family, and friends with words. Personally, I never knew or heard of him, but the loss of human life affects all of us in a way that weakens the knees.
Death is a debt owed to nature. Every death we live to grief reminds us of the certainty of our own death. After all is said and done, “the idea is to die young as late as possible” — Ashley Montagu.
But the death that kills something in us is the one of a loved one that takes their life because they couldn’t go on with life anymore. It leaves us with a different kind of grief — it leaves us with a feeling of guilt and wondering.
We are left thinking about what we could have done better or how we could have shown a little more support. Our world is a cruel one, and the need for kindness as the fickleness of mental health has never been more obvious.
On social media, many are reacting to Stephen’s death with different posts and captions. From praying for his wife, children, and immediate family members to expressing shock. Videos of him radiating joy and happiness have taken up every social space and one would have thought, “how could such a happy man have taken his own life?”
Following his death, the conversation about how not all seemingly happy people are happy is back to the fore. We are sharing and reading content on how to show support for men and why we must reach out to friends and family to ensure that they are truly fine. We are talking about men being raised better to express their feelings and how men need to be appreciated for the role they play in society. We are reminding ourselves to care and be a lot more kind and sensitive — look beyond the surface!
While all the above are correct and important, do we make deliberate efforts to be that ray of sunshine in the life of the people around us? What I have observed over the years is that we pay lip service to the importance of mental health with each fresh news of suicide. We have been here before. Just like every other pressing issue, we join the trend, write all we must write, but forget to take action… even the very tiny steps that must begin with us.
In my little capacity, I have supported mental health awareness projects through donations, partnerships, and making my platforms available to push for better awareness and support for people and from the government. With the little way that I have been involved, I know that understanding mental health issues can be very complicated. It is a subject that is research in motion.
I also do know that we don’t all have to understand the complexities of mental health problems. We only need to be kind, show empathy, and be there for the people in our lives. We need to learn how to make meaningful connections and cultivate them. This era of social media is making this even more obsolete, and I worry. So I will be sharing a few ways you can be there for the people in your life:
Check on your friends
Looks cliche but this is a big deal. I am not one who confuses colleagues and acquaintances for friends. So, when I call you my friend, you are indeed my friend. I also tend to reevaluate and reassign titles. It helps manage my expectations. I have had friends say to me that they don’t bother checking in on how I am doing because they view my WhatsApp story. LOL. For those who have said this to me, I immediately let them know how wrong such an assumption can be and how it is a very myopic way to think.
Personally, I have posted memes and lovely photos of myself on my WhatsApp story while going through some of the hardest moments of my life. If you have a relationship with a person, do well to pick up your phone from time to time and call them. Ask how they are doing and really ask. Most times, all we want to do is share our fear and worries. We just need to vent. So please reach out and be intentional about it.
Empathy is defined as the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. I admit that there are people with weaknesses in this area. They lack the capacity to think outside of their own reality, lived experience, or expectations of life. They have to experience it to feel or understand it. However, we must be kind and practice using kind words with others. If you cannot understand it, it is okay but be kind in your approach.
Do not be judgemental
One of my favorite quotes is hung on the wall in my uncle’s sitting room. It says, “Do not criticise a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” I know we like to think we are better than the next person. You probably are but will you still be better off if you two have had to walk the same mile in the same shoes? Our lives are a combination of lived experiences that inform our choices and outcome. Be a little more understanding and show kindness where necessary.
Work on yourself
You cannot give what you do not have. If you want to be a kind person, you have to be kind to yourself. A healthy exercise to take will be having an honest introspection and evaluating self to identify strengths, weaknesses, and flaws. Learn how to be a better colleague, friend, lover, or partner. A problem is on its way to being solved when there is an admission of its presence.
Celebrate little wins & Give Compliments
There is a growing culture that understands how impactful words of affirmation can be. We are encouraged to speak positivity into our lives every Monday. This helps to build our confidence and energy among other things. This must, however, be applied to the way we relate with others. Let the affirmation you speak over yourself reflect in the way you speak into people’s lives. Compliment people genuinely at every given opportunity and speak uplifting words to them. Do not forget to mean them!
Celebrate little wins and tell them how much you admire their work, courage, and efficiency.
Contentment is powerful. Doesn’t mean you will lose the zeal to get better or aim for more. Rather it helps you understand process and time. You are also able to avoid unhealthy competition with people you should be working with and growing together.
Let’s do better than sharing content. Be kind and Be there.
Disclaimer: This post is not about the friends and family of the late DJ. Rather, a call for us to be better for the people around us in order to create an environment that encourages vulnerability and healing.