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Philip Patston says mental health campaigns miss the mark

Belonging & meaning — without them we may be connected, but we're strangers

Diversity blogger Philip Patston says mental health campaigns miss the mark.

It's always something of a shock when well-known strangers like Charlotte Dawson kill themselves. I felt the same when Greg King suicided in November 2012.

They feel familiar and yet they're not. You feel sad but there's no relationship to mourn. Life goes on with nothing missing.

Perhaps there's even a subconscious, yet obviously false, belief that someone so well-known would have something to live for. Everything even.

But there they are, these minor celebrities, wanting to end it all. Life becomes so bad (hard? sad? meaningless? hopeless?) that there's nothing left to go on for.

It's quite an indictment on modern life that stress, bullying, unhappiness — whatever — can drive even our most successful to end their own lives. No wonder young people are chosing it more and more — "If there's not enough in life for Charlotte or Greg, what's in it for me?" one might ask.

The importance of connection comes up a lot in mental health campaigns these days, but I think they miss the mark. We're more connected than we've ever been as a species.

Belonging and meaning are what's missing, I think, not connection. You can plug a heater into a power point and it's connected. But if you don't turn the switch, there's no heat.

Belonging and meaning are the power that run through connection. They are the warmth and the reason for relationships. They are who we are and why.

I remember when I first started doing comedy. I thought I'd belong to the comedy community, but I didn't. Some friends stopped calling because they thought I'd be out with my new comedian friends, but I wasn't. There was a time when I began to not know where I belonged and, after 15 years of doing comedy, it all became meaningless.

Belonging and meaning. Two things that are free and make great gifts. So give them today. It takes six words: "You mean a lot to me." Or if you can't say it, acronym it: UMAL2M 

Belonging and meaning. Without them, we may be connected, but we're strangers — and life has no meaning.


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