If you have been on any kind of social media site in the past few months, you may have noticed that raising awareness seems to be trending. You might even encounter #awareness or #raiseawareness. But why is raising awareness an important thing to do – outside of the social trend?
We need to raise awareness because there are people who are struggling, but do not know that their struggle is important or that what they are facing is a battle that is worth fighting.
When issues are not talked about, they remain in the shadows and are not understood.
Lack of awareness leaves issues in the dark – unseen, unknown, un-addressable – leaving those who deal with these very real and very challenging situations in their lives feeling isolated, broken, or like their struggle may never end.
If important issues are left in the dark, people may:
- Feel that they are making a big deal out of nothing, and that they just need to get over it.
- Be trapped in a cycle of harm, and think that what is happening is completely normal. They may believe that there is something wrong with them, or reason that they just need to adapt.
- Experience guilt and shame over something they feel is their fault, which could lead to depression or suicidal thoughts.
Awareness is a critical first step to breaking stigma, and to communicating to people that they are not alone – their struggles are important and their battles are worth fighting.
Awareness offers hope.
So, what are some important issues for which awareness is currently being raised?
- Sexual assault
Anyone who has ever been assaulted has the right to know that what happened to them was not asked for, was not acceptable, and was not their fault. Those who have been victims have the right to hear that their stories matter. This is important for both those who have suffered from sexual assault in an isolated incident, and those who are perpetually being assaulted but do not realize that they have the right to speak up. Potentially there is someone you know, we know, or someone reading this who thinks that a sexual assault needs to be something that was a “REALLY” big deal, and if it was not rape that they experienced, then it wouldn’t matter anyway — but that is not true. Being addressed in a way that is inappropriate, being forced to interact with someone in a sexual manner against one’s own desire, or being forced to view images or videos that are unwanted are all a part of sexual assault. Please do not perpetuate the lie that sexual assault is only rape. It is much broader than that, and unfortunately far more common than some would like to admit. Let’s not pretend, nor keep quiet. Instead, let’s raise awareness so that we won’t continue to allow victims to suffer alone.
- Mental Health
There is a difference between getting butterflies in your stomach before an exam, and not being able to get out of bed because you are petrified of failing. The fear of failing can be so crippling that actually attempting the exam feels literally impossible. There is a difference between having a few down days where you wonder what is going on and what the purpose of life is, and wondering if life is really worth living and if death is truly the only way out. There is a difference between a lot of what we consider “normal” and what we have begun to notice is a mental health concern. We have learned that a lot of these concerns are not things that people willingly choose to struggle with, but rather that their body functions in such a way that they cannot seem to overcome their struggles on their own. It is important to raise awareness so that we do not dismiss our friend’s “low period” with him as just being in a funk, or we do not tell our family member that everyone struggles with anxiety and they need to get over theirs. Raising awareness means giving people the freedom to feel, and to know that it is okay to seek help. This can cover depression, anxiety, eating disorders, anger, perfectionism, procrastination… this list truly can go on and on. We need to raise awareness so that those who are struggling and battling alone know that they can journey with others through these challenges.
There are those who have been convinced that abuse is only physical, or that it has to be repeated or cause physical injury to count as abuse. These are all lies that hold people back from seeking help. Abuse can be verbal. If a partner or spouse is continually telling the other partner that they are no good, or that no one would ever love them or even that they are lucky to be loved — that is abuse. If someone is withholding food, water, shelter, etc. that is abuse. Abuse is more than just being beaten, and the wounds go far deeper than those that we are capable of seeing. Raising awareness means offering someone the knowledge that the relationship that they are currently in is not a healthy one, and they have the right to leave. Raising awareness means helping an abusive partner realize their actions are not acceptable and that to leverage power over another person is abusive.
Join us in raising awareness and offering hope!