Editor’s Column: To Help a Fainting Robin

Helen Misiewicz, Assistant Commentary Editor

Sometimes, especially with the beautiful wildlife and landscape that surrounds us at Colgate, nature can be startling. I was alarmed when I saw a robin down Willow Path fainting and flapping its wings as it tried to fly. Its amber chest was compressing and expanding in its desperation to fly and simply survive. Sometimes we think that nature has its own way of healing itself without any human interference. But if you see someone, or something, struggling, would you help? 

On January 31, 2018, Canada celebrated its annual “Bell Let’s Talk” Day. Once a year, the organization calls upon all citizens throughout Canada to use social media with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to open up a discussion about the horrors of mental illness, and its devastating effects on a wide-ranging population. The organization began back in 2010 when the stigma that surrounds mental illness was as prominent as ever. Since then, Bell Let’s Talk has raised over $93.4 million for mental health programs, and its message is being transported all across the globe. This organization and its message stand as a remarkable example of the power human beings have together, and the sense of community that seems so lacking in our society. Yet, despite efforts like these, people (and especially college students) feel more alone than ever. We live in a world filled with others, but remain isolated within our own minds, thoughts and fears. 

Despite the newsflashes of destruction, tweets of despair and articles of desperation, the world is never as bad as it seems in your worst moment. There are days where the sense of isolation becomes so pronounced that it seems impossible to think anyone will understand your thoughts. The struggle that you endure on a daily basis seems like you’re fighting in vain against an invisible monster that whispers in your mind incessantly. But, always know you are never alone. Suffering and pain are universal, not just exclusive to your current situation. And although it may be hard to recognize, others are struggling right around you. There should be no shame in asking for help. From anyone… at any time. 

 Maybe you personally are not affected by the battle of your own mind, but I can guarantee you that you know someone who is. People don’t like to highlight their vulnerabilities. Most don’t want your pity. But without a doubt, people need your love, support and understanding. As someone who has dealt with her own mental health issues, and watched countless friends tormented by their own, I can safely say that you can not survive any mental illness on your own.

I applaud Canada’s efforts in its national Bell Let’s Talk Day. Canada has done tremendous work to erase the stigma that has haunted millions of people throughout the world who live in fear of being ostracized and rebuked. But I think we can do better. As college students, especially at a competitive and challenging institution like Colgate, we understand that stress and frustration can heighten these underlying concerns. And therefore, mental health is not something that only matters on one day of the year. Illnesses like eating disorders, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are all perpetual struggles that endure throughout the entire day and night. Therefore, I implore everyone to let the people they love know how much you do. Remind them of your understanding. Be patient with their frustrations and fears. You may never know another person’s struggles, but never doubt that everyone struggles with their own matters, in their own way. 

Emily Dickinson once wrote, “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.” Everyone’s life is worth living, and everyone can make a difference in this world. If you see someone struggling, even if it’s just a robin on Willow Path, help them. When your actions demonstrate a genuine care and concern for those struggling around you, your life will never be lived in vain.

Contact Helen Misiewicz at [email protected]