This blog is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma around issues of mental health and mental illness.

Ryan is a writer, Episcopal priest, lawyer, and aspiring therapist (graduating this June!) trying to build bridges between mental health communities and communities of faith. He’s also hoping to encourage those in helping professions to put their masks on first.

Original blog post below:

Your Mask First

It’s the part when you want the Flight Attendant to stop talking so you can keep binging Game of Thrones or wrap up that last but all important text message to your little pooky who just can’t wait to see you when you land. Interrupting your blessed focus is the crew member droning on about emergency exits and water landings and all other manner of events that just aren’t going to be happening on your flight. Not today, Satan, you think. Not today. We’re cruising from Dallas to LA uninterrupted, thank you very much. And I just ain’t dying while enjoying me some Jon Snow. 

And you probably won’t because most planes don’t crash. Whenever I fly with someone who is nervous I ask them if they consider themselves lucky. They inevitably tell me they do not consider themselves lucky. “Well,” I say, “then you’re in luck today because you’re not lucky enough to die in a plane crash. The odds are just too great. I don’t know much in life but I know this: you won’t win the lottery and you won’t die in a plane crash. You ain’t Buddy Holly. Sorry.” 

I never have any idea if this provides even a morsel comfort. I also don’t care because I know we’re not going down. But instead of blowing off the flight attendant I take a moment to listen to the instruction and not just because my own mother has been a flight attendant for thirty years and I know how brutal the job can be. I pay attention for an entirely different reason. 

Well, two actually. 

First, I actually do want to know where the closest exit is because, well, shit happens, and if it does surviving is better than the alternative. 

It’s the second reason, however, why I really listen. It’s a small message and it’s easy to miss but it’s a message that changed my entire life. You know the part where they talk about the cabin losing pressure? If that happens little masks will drop like manna from the ceiling and everyone is supposed to wear them so we don’t suffocate at 30,000. feet. Great idea, by the way. Thank you smart engineer from ages past. It’s what comes next that fascinates me. 

The flight attendant reminds those of us traveling with small children to make sure our own masks are properly secured on our faces before we try and help anyone else. This instruction runs counter to the protective instinct of a parent. Surely we should tend to our young before ourselves. But it’s a bad idea because if we tend to them before ourselves the odds increase that we’ll become incapacitated before any help can be rendered. It’s a basic but difficult concept to embed into our lives-especially those of us called to aid others in life. 

So this blog is for you (and me), the ones who take the call in the dead of night, clean the patient off in the bathroom, sit with the friend who won’t stop talking, prescribe the meds, inject the needles, help mend the high conflict family, treat the severely mental ill. There are so many different acts of courageous service that happen on a daily basis we couldn’t possibly recount them all here. What we can do here is create a place for a dose of inspiration every now and again, maybe an article or a video or a simple joke to keep reminding us that if we don’t take care of ourselves first — today — there’ll be no person for us to take care for tomorrow. Because tomorrow, like us, will be gone. 

Love yourself today. Fully. Because that’s what you deserve.