By LaVonna Connelly
As the storm clouds of economic change brew, there are many in our community who are already suffering. The fire disasters, home foreclosures and slowing of the economy are beginning to take “early casualties.” For some, the pressures they face seem unbearable.
There has been a trend in American society toward “rugged individualism.” In these tough times, community members who need a word of encouragement may not have the support they need. People are everywhere yet so many feel disconnected and isolated.
It has come to my husband and my attention that several of our personal friends are “losing it all” due to financial difficulties. Scenarios like these are likely to increase over the next year.
For those of you who would like to be a beacon of light in our community, I’d like to offer some advice on how you can help.
It is quite simple. Starting today, when you greet your friends, neighbors, family members and employees, etc., ask them how they are doing. It is NOT your job to fix everyone’s problems; it is your job to make sure that the people you come into contact with know that you care.
People who are facing difficulties often can’t think straight, can’t problem solve and sometimes get fixated on desperate “solutions.” Again, you don’t have to “fix” anyone, but sometimes through conversation, people begin to see other options. If nothing else, they may see that they are valuable to you and that maybe they should stop considering the desperate solutions they were pondering.
If someone tells you they are thinking of taking their own life, don’t hesitate to engage in conversations regarding the details. Research shows that you will NOT encourage suicide by asking a suicidal person about the details. Ask them if they have considered how and when they would do it, ask them if they have access to the means to do it, and if you have ANY feeling that they might be at risk, call 911 and report it. Let the professionals make the judgment call, you just report if you think there is true risk.
If you become concerned for someone’s mental health, give them the San Diego Access and Crisis Line number 800-479-3339. This number can be called 24 hours a day/365 days a year for consultation and suicide intervention by phone.
But that is not all. Be pro-active. Isolation is an awful thing, and far too prevalent. Don’t be afraid to invite your neighbors over for a “community coffee” in your driveway or yard. Yes, I know this seems strange, but try it, you might like it.
Decide on a day, invite your neighbors, set up a table with a coffee pot, some hot water and tea bags, maybe some water, and see what happens. You might not get many of your neighbors to come (they might be rugged individualists), but it would definitely give any of your neighbors who are feeling socially isolated a chance to socialize. After all, humans are SOCIAL creatures, they enjoy being social when given an excuse.
My point is that NOT ALL of our community members have an excuse. Don’t be afraid. Be someone’s excuse to build a meaningful relationship. one that could make a REAL difference in the lives of our community members and our community.
If you read this and say “hey, I’d REALLY like to talk more about this” or “hey, I would do something like this but need a little encouragement,” please don’t hesitate to give my husband and me a call. We are in the Orange Book.
LaVonna Connelly is a Ramona resident.