NOTE: This post contains references to mental health, suicide, and light references to cyber bullying. If any of these topics are difficult for you to read, you may want to skip this blog. Sending lots of love to everyone, whether you choose to read this or not.
I try to keep my dev life and my personal life somewhat separate (although they do meld together a bit just because I like to share how my life affects my dev experience and vice versa), but this week I have to combine the two because it's been hard for me to think about anything but a scandal that recently broke in the running community. Last week, it was discovered that a man may have cheated to win his age group at the LA Marathon with a world record time. A few days later, he was found dead, the cause of death was determined to be death by suicide.
Among my running communities, this was universally seen as a tragedy. Whether this man behaved ethically or not, he was a human being, and his death is tragic. This also led to some disagreements and a lot of discussion about mental health and whether the comments being made about him online in light of the cheating scandal could have contributed to his decision to take his own life. At the end of the discussion, we all agreed that kindness matters.
We can't know what led this man to see suicide as his best option. We don't know if unkind words said on the internet can contribute. We can't know if any of his friends and family had checked in on him recently to see how this scandal was affecting his mental health. What we can do is take this as a reminder to spread positive energy in the world.
We can't always stop ourselves from thinking unkind thoughts. When someone cheats or lies, it's not abnormal to be angry, especially if that cheating affects you. Just because you have these thoughts or feelings, that doesn't mean you need send that negative energy out into the world. Often it's better to remain silent than to spread negativity. On the flip side ... definitely share kind thoughts. If you see someone excel at something, tell them you're impressed or proud. If you like someone's outfit, compliment them. If someone does something nice for you, thank them for their help. If you're thinking something kind about someone, share it. If you just want to send out a thread of tweets about how awesome your friends are, do it. Send more positivity out into the world.
Another important way to help spread positivity is to check in with your friends. This doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process, it can just mean shooting them a quick text or message saying, "I know you're going through a lot and I wanted you to know I'm thinking of you." If you're available to hang out with a friend who may be struggling (or just have a long phone chat), let them know. Respect your own needs and schedule (after all, you can't help others if you don't help yourself first), but if you can be there for friends, do it. Sometimes just sitting down to have coffee with a friend can make a big difference in both of your days (because often the satisfaction you get from helping someone else brings a mental boost to your day).
This is especially important if you have friends that you know live with mental illness or struggle a lot certain times of the year (for example, around holidays or the anniversary of the death of a loved one). It's always appreciated when you reach out and tell someone you're thinking of them.
It's also important to encourage and support those around you. Encouragement and support looks different for each individual (and the things that you find encouraging may not have that effect on others), but finding a way to support your friends (and sometimes random internet strangers) and show them how much you believe in them is a great way to put positive energy out there in the world. It's very easy to feel alone and unsupported, especially when going through a difficult time, and a quick "you got this!" can go a long way towards helping someone get through their struggle. (This is another lesson I learned from running, where any time you see someone struggle during a run or race, there will always be another runner or a spectator cheering them on and encouraging them to keep going - I've benefited from this many times.)
Every day (and sometimes every minute) we have to decide if we want to bring positivity or negativity into the world. There are sometimes moments when negativity is what's necessary, but when there's a choice, it's important to spread positivity. We all want the world to be a better place - and that has to start with us and sharing the good. Spread positivity ... be the positive energy you want to see in this world.