I recently thought about the importance of the postal service in regards to mental health. This isn’t just because the price of stamps in the United States is totally going up on January 21, 2018. It’s because if you or a loved one are potentially feeling isolated and alone in their depression, it’s hard to break through.
In the age of social media and digital communication we should feel more connected than ever, right? Yet, a recent article in Scientific American discussed several research publications, books, and researchers that suggest a correlation between the use of digital interaction (through social media, web browsing, gaming) and “ rising symptoms of depression and suicidal behaviors in teenagers.” But notes that other research suggests that sometimes social media is positive for people struggling with depression or other serious mental health concerns.
How do we help ourselves and others if we can’t use digital resources as aids? Interaction without physical objects are tangible are often used in different kinds of therapy and have been a focus of volunteer groups such as Letters Against Depression. You may have seen them featured on The Mighty. Volunteers focus on writing letters to individuals living with depression and other mental health concerns by providing letters of hope and support. These letters offer reminders we can carry with us that we are not alone.
Physical letters give the people the ability to say, “someone cares about me enough to write me a letter instead of an e-mail.” It’s like the one friend that actually donates to a campaign instead of responding with #thoughtsandprayers in that way that really means nothing except that they don’t actually care, but want to be polite.
When depression throws a person into a thought spiral they can pull out a letter to use as evidence to point out how illogical the thought pattern is. This is one of many techniques that can help individuals get through some scary moments, like the ones where depression keeps whispering over and over, “None of your friends/coworkers/peers actually like you.” Or “Your family doesn’t actually love you.” I used to call these the “broken record” thoughts.
So, consider sending a card or letter in the mail to the people you care about. I promise most of the time people with depression don’t tell you they are dealing with depression. Consider writing letters to people that need to be reminded that they deserve to exist because it’s possible that they aren’t thinking that way.
In order to send those letter, you need to go buy stamps. Go buy those stamps and maybe pick up some fun stationery too — there’s no reason you can’t make yourself a bit happier at the same time.