"I'm fine," the ad reproduced here, becomes "Save me," when inverted, and the other ads in the series – "Life is great" and "I feel fantastic" – inverted read "I hate myself" and "I'm falling apart." Each ad was run with the statement "The signs are there if you read them. Help us save a life before it's too late." These unusual advertisements drew attention to a widespread social problem and uniquely showed how we can be oblivious to the subtle and often hidden symptoms of depression and related disorders if we are not focusing on the people with whom we interact.
Effective though they were, the SOS ads are now remembered mainly as an example of an innovative and highly successful advertising campaign, though hopefully the message will be remembered by those who saw the ads. The messages also reflect an aspect of life that every Christian should keep in mind: that what we hear people say can often cover a deeper reality that calls for our help.
Sometimes the additional reality comes out if we simply take the time to engage the individual facing problems in sincere rather than surface conversation. In that way, the situation can be similar to the poignant New Testament story of the father who asked Christ to heal his son. The fact that he did this suggests, on the surface, belief, but when Jesus challenged that assumption, the father replied “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). This is primarily about faith, but it is also a classic example of how a troubled person often opens up to someone who spends the time and energy to focus on them – perhaps only later in a conversation opening up to show desperation or depression.
Naturally, this doesn’t mean we should attempt to verbally probe and question every person with whom we interact, presuming they have problems; but as the SOS campaign so clearly demonstrated, if the signs are there we can often see them hidden in plain view. It is then that we should be sure to take the time to try to discern the problem and how we can help. That’s one of the things that Christians are supposed to do: to look beneath the surface of the world in which we live and to see the real needs around us and then seek to help as we can. Serious disorders and psychological problems may need professional help, but a great many people live with lesser problems, depression, discouragement and emotional pain. Those people often say “I’m fine” – and while it may not be a cry of “save me!” – it may be an invitation, if we can see it, to help them.