Beyond calendar markings: The silent cry behind ‘awareness days’

Sadhvee Babu
By Sadhvee Babu | 14 September 2023
Sadhvee Babu.

Today, as we gather, we're surrounded by an ever-increasing number of Awareness Days dotting our calendars. From International Women’s Day to R U OK? Day, our calendars are full of reminders. In 2023 alone, we have 36 days dedicated to various mental health themes. That’s almost one for every week of the year.

Awareness days – from International Women’s Day to Neurodiversity Week – undoubtedly serve as crucial signposts. Yet, I stand before you with a pressing question: Are we truly aware? Or are these days just fleeting markers in our busy lives, like commercial holidays that have lost their essence?

Consider Valentine’s Day, a day of love. But has its commercialisation taken away its true spirit? Similarly, are days like International Women’s Day or RUOK? Day at risk of becoming mere buzzwords without substantial and tangible impact?

On May 8th, 2023, I faced the eye of the storm. The very storm that many of these ‘awareness days’ aim to address. I found myself grappling with trauma, struggling to find my identity after surviving unspeakable challenges. If my life was a best-selling novel with 25 chapters, at that moment, I was stuck in chapter 8, searching for the strength to turn the page.

Like many, I wore the brave face. Guess what? No one knew. The same brave face that so many of us wear every single day, hiding behind our smiles and the "I'm fine" responses. The truth is, those who need help the most often don’t tell you they're struggling.

If you’ve ever been on a plane, you've heard the safety briefing. In an emergency, secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It's a simple, yet powerful analogy. We must first find our footing, discover our strength, and secure our own "oxygen mask" before we can truly be of help to others.

For me, even amidst my darkest times, I realised that my strength lay in speaking up, sharing, and assisting others while assisting myself. That was my superpower. It became my purpose.

There are many, many silent struggles, juxtaposed against the clamour of 'awareness days', underscore a haunting paradox. In a world ablaze with digital reminders, why do the very voices we aim to amplify, often fall silent?

The truth is, mere awareness isn’t enough. Asking a question of RUOK? is not enough. We need genuine understanding and action. The mental health days, as commendable as their intentions might be, risk becoming void of meaning if we don’t move from passive observance to active support.

I urge all of you to do more than just mark these days on your calendar. Listen to those around you, not with your judgments, but with an open heart. Let's not wait for people to tell us they're struggling. Let's create environments where they feel safe enough to share their stories, even in the midst of their storms.

To anyone here who is silently battling their own storm, I want to say: I hear you. I understand that opening up isn’t simple. Remember, every best-seller has its twists and turns. You have the power to write your next chapter. And I, along with many others, am here to support you.

Together, let's make these ‘awareness days’ more than just dates on a calendar. Let's make them platforms for change, understanding, and genuine support.

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