Go Buy Stamps (Updated)
When I first wrote this post, I thought about the importance of international postal services in regards to mental health. This wasn’t just because the price of stamps in the United States was increased on January 21, 2018. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Postal Service, and international shipping services have faced mass disruptions. With the current global mental health crisis, it’s difficult to send packages and mail to relatives in other countries. Some families have been split apart for years now, unable to even send a letter. This is terrifying. Letters are a critical tool in mental health because tangible objects have an impact because if you or a loved one are potentially feeling isolated and alone in 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 has its benefits, though so do physical ones. Tangible letters are often used in different therapies and are 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 carry — reminders 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 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 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 they aren’t thinking that way.
To send those letters, you need to 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 too.
Thank you for taking the time to read this today! If you enjoyed this piece, please consider checking out the rest of Lo Potter’s work.