Opinion

Check Your Friends, Not Your Phone

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

By limiting the time we spend with each other, phones have made it easier to ignore what others might be going through. But sometimes looking up from your screen might matter more than you think.

By Laura Finch

Trigger warning: This article contains content about mental health and suicide that some readers might find upsetting. 

How much of the day do we spend looking down at our phone screen? Performing that aimless scrolling action that our thumb is only too familiar with. 

Now stop and think, let’s compare how many times we’ve checked our phone today with the number of times we’ve checked on those around us? 

Just stop and mull that over for a while.

When we see our phone battery dropping, we might start to panic and immediately our thoughts go to finding a place where we can charge it. 

Now let’s think of our phone with a low battery as a human. Like a phone, they might be running low and in desperate need of a recharge. So why can we not show the same care and attention that we give our phones to those around us? How can we let people’s batteries run so low that they feel they have no other choice but to rip out that battery and turn off the screen altogether.

So, I challenge you. Tilt your head just 45 degrees upward and you will find an unpixelated world. Within this world you might see an individual whose battery is on the brink of being empty. By shifting your gaze up just above the edge of that screen you are able to detect such an individual. It alarms you to see how low their charge is. With your gaze free from a screen, you are able to look that person directly in the eye and ask if they are alright. 

But not just a brief check, instead using that same attentiveness that is dedicated to maintaining our phone’s charge. You are able to look that individual in the eye and ask: but are you really? 

Because, believe it or not, just like that you can boost that individual’s charge. It can sometimes be as easy as plugging a phone into a charger. Because just like that, an individual can realise that someone else notices how much they are struggling to stay charged. Just like that, an individual can realise that somebody would actually care if their battery ran empty and their screen turned off completely. 

Now this may seem like an extremely round-about analogy on something that seems so simple. Then why, despite this simplicity, is suicide still so prevalent?

This is not a topic we can continue to ignore. We cannot continue to side-step and skirt around the edges of mental health. Because it is real. The lack of awareness and support is real. And suicide is happening. 

Now I’m not going to pretend that mental health conditions are simple. That one key will fit all locks. But for some locks, it can be that simple. For some locks, all that is needed is to realise that one key does work, and that someone gave enough of a shit to try and open that door before it locked forever. 

It is frustrating to live in a world where every illness is thought of like cancer, requiring world-class scientists to find the cure. Or like motor neurone disease where only top consultants can slow its progression. Do not get me wrong, I am in no way dismissing the severity of mental illness. Because man that shit can be debilitating, trust me I speak from experience. But you do not always have to be a renowned psychiatrist to help someone struggling. So please, I am begging you to realise that for some people living with mental health conditions, you really can hold the solution, or at least part of it. 

I am not saying you have a wand to magically fix someone’s struggle with mental health. Or that it is your responsibility to make their suffering go away. But what you do hold is the power to be that barrier preventing the unfixable. Each and every one of us needs to recognise this power that we can hold. If we just put down our phones. Or just for one minute pause our busy lives. And realise that by pressing that pause button we could help someone reconsider pressing the stop one.

Laura Finch is a final year Paramedic Science student at the University of Surrey.

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