It’s Mental Health Week here in Australia and I’ve had all sorts of feelings about it, many of them a kind of amorphous irritation. Apparently mental illness is a ‘hidden disease’ because people don’t talk about it or tell other people that they’re experiencing it although I throw off the bell curve because I’m happy to put my hand up and say that depression and I have hung out on several occasions in the past. Not so much these days but if I have to see another fucking ‘Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’ve been strong for too long’ meme on Facebook then it’s going to push me over the edge, I swear. Did you see the little guilt trip in there? Nice. I think I’d rather be alone than struggle through that passive aggressive BS.
For something that people don’t talk about that much it seems to be everywhere and totally inescapable. Just from a personal point of view I’ve found many people to be very forthcoming about it but maybe it’s my demographic or maybe I’m just approachable. I also have a huge array of really embarrassing stories that I over share so maybe people are just telling me they’re depressed to shut me up?*
So anyway, my sister (who rather than get depressed runs marathons. I’d rather just take the drugs thank you very much) told me today about an initiative whereby people in the hospitality industry make an effort to, you know, actually smile and be nice to the people they’re serving. I know, radical thought and one fairly inherent in the phrase ‘hospitality’ but given the fact that this has been put forward as a Great Idea then clearly not as obvious as I’d thought.
But the idea of being pleasant and friendly and basically not-an-arsehole to people you meet as you go around your daily business is something that we all should be aiming for. (Also, if you’re friendly and chatty and people get to know you and you have a short name like ‘Eva’, they might write it in chocolate on the top of your coffee. Just saying).
It takes literally nothing away from you to smile and look interested. Yep, I think it’s totally ok to fake it. I take my children to visit my 93 year old Nan regularly, and you better believe they get the ‘I don’t care if you’re bored, smile and pay attention’ every. time.
If someone is in the throws of fully fledged depression then it’s drugs, some CBT and a good psychologist ( this article is excellent) but for the huge majority of people, just being served, or indeed serving, someone who treats them as if their vaguely important and maybe even someone nice to know can make a huge difference to they’re day. The ripples caused by an interaction in which the person just didn’t care will be felt for the rest of the day and may well colour the next interaction that they have, and the next….see? Ripples.
Let’s all try and aim for the opposite. Let’s spread some goddamn fairy dust. It doesn’t have to be a God thing. It’s just a ‘you never know when you’re going to make someone’s day a huge amount more lovely’ thing.
*on reflection, that’s totally it.