We probably don’t need awareness for the sort of cause you’d want to raise awareness for. We don’t, and even if we did, most people suck at spreading useful awareness.We know breast cancer exists, we know mental health is a thing, we are all aware that ALS exists. We probably do not need the sort of awareness that broadcasts to the world that you are aware a well known problem exists and think that it’s fucked up.
You know what charities need? Money and time. You aren’t required to buy a shirt or a bumper sticker. Just give them the fucking money, I guarantee it will go to a better place than a t-shirt wholesaler.
Volunteer. Do anything that doesn’t involve turning charity into yet another brand for you to purchase. Is Susan G Komen really all that dissimilar from Nike? They both are more than willing to sue you if you use their iconic phrases (for the Cure and JUST DO IT even look alike). You are no humanitarian for that breast cancer awareness shirt. You know who took the money from that? Are you really sure it’s going to help anyone, at all, with anything? Did you check? Because all I see is a company using your misguided philanthropy to sell you a shirt. And misguided is being generous.
You may not give a shit about the cause but care deeply about being seen to care. I’ve seen dozens of ‘awareness’ campaigns that sold plenty of shirts, made plenty of money, and that money went… Well they don’t say. And never, not one time, has anyone attempted to constructively inform me about the issue. Your breast cancer shirt, you, the 17 year old with a save the tatas shirt, doesn’t do shit for the women most likely to get breast cancer. Septuagenarians getting breast exams isn’t as fun or as cheeky I suppose. The ALS ice bucket challenge was just an (admittedly pretty cool) viral idea attached to a plea for charity. How many of us would have done the ice bucket challenge if the charity was removed? Because I, along with my team, have done it, and trust me when I say charity was not a motivating cause. Seeing our well endowed trainer in a wet shirt? Yup. Some degenerative disease? Dude. Tits. I’m not proud of that but it is the honest to god truth.
Philanthropy has become trendy, and that is so damn close to being awesome, it really is. Because all we have to do to not fuck this up is actually educate or donate. We could make the world a better place for its own sake. Teach people what the symptoms of ALS are, provide links to donate money, use your time and energy to help an ALS specific charity, or any charity. Just go and ask them what they need on some random tuesday, everyone has manpower on Thanksgiving. But just buying a sticker that says you support charities, I mean I guess some of that goes to the charity, but it feels like all we have accomplished is creating a massive swell of activity around charities with anything happening for the charities being a fortunate byproduct of our own narcissism. This happens plenty in mental health awareness too. And I say this as someone with diagnosed depression and anxiety, with a mother with the same, a long history of addictive personalities on both sides and a family history on my mothers side vaguely alluded to “madness” which currently has me paranoid that schizophrenia is right around the corner. It would probably manifest in the next half a decade.
Telling your story, how you overcame mental illness, or even just sharing that it’s beating your ass can be really great. Solidarity is amazing. But the focus has to be on getting better, on actually helping people, on how we can all move forward. It can’t be “my experience makes me unique and special and my life is so hard and fuck you.” Because guess what you did, you asshole? You made us all look bad. We’re all, and certainly on the internet, some sort of messed up. It shows up differently in everyone, but we have all been hurt by genetics, chance, or just the world being a cold and messed up place. Confrontation and anger aren’t going to help that. People reaching out to me the nights I spent wondering if a single person I talked to that day would care if I hadn’t bothered to wake up got me through some of the toughest times of my life. Just ask someone if they’re ok, tell people (either in private or, should you choose, just tell everyone who follows you) that you’re there to talk to. Don’t just post the suicide hotlines number and call it a day. I know plenty of charities that do awesome work that need the attention and the money too (seriously, I go to a charity run therapist for minors and have for almost a year now, they need time and money as badly as anyone).
Trust me, there are people out there trying to make a difference in everyone’s life. For any cause. In my specific case mental health charities have helped my life in dramatic and personal ways, but what they need isn’t just awareness, they need time and money. Both things that are, you know, actually hard to give up. Because the world won’t get better without work, and awareness doesn’t do much if all everyone offers is that.