Four Words that Freak People Out: Word 1

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness

(c)2013 Nancy Virden

photo-24746059-sad-female-over-white-background.It scares people. I don’t know why it does, but bring up the topic outside a counselor’s office and people get squeamish. I can squawk and holler that we are safer and healthier if we talk about it, but until people know how to discuss it, the conversations won’t happen.

At mention of this word, I’ve seen eyes grow wide, heads turn away, and feet start to shuffle awkwardly. I’ve heard lies as excuses are made for having to leave the room, and polite comments by those with no intention of reading my books. It has been a shame, I think, that the word  ostracizes hurting people. Those whose lives have been touched by it often find themselves alone.

Look at the difference over how the passings of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers have been mourned. Two highly successful and popular comics died within a month of each other, yet after the suicide of Mr. Williams the news reporters and commentators expressed great disappointment in how he died. Some were angry, others were confused. Then people stopped talking about him. Ms. Rivers’ face is still on magazine covers and in the rumor mill. Her life is being celebrated. Maybe my point of view is skewed, but suicide remains a subject people speak of in hushed tones; it’s a secret no one wants to share.

Since I’ve been talking about it openly, some people have backed off from me. It’s ok, I’d rather hang out with friends who get it anyway. However, the enormity of the shame I am expected to carry is revealed by how often I am distrusted.

Somehow, in researching the topic of suicide I discovered that the United States can and will turn people away at the border who have a history of mental illness and attempted suicide. Imagine that. Maybe for you this doesn’t seem too odd, after all who can know what a person with mental illness will do next? I know probably thirty or more people who have attempted suicide. It’s not rare, and the nicest folks can try to take their lives.

Suicide is composed mostly of one thing: the pain of life has exceeded any idea of pain in death. 90% of suicides involve either major depression, substance abuse, or both (see the resources listed on the About page of this website). There are many “reasons” and no explanations.

It is impossible for most people to relate to an idea so extreme and opposite of the normal approach to survival. Relating is not necessary, though. Acceptance is. Compassion for the hurting- even those in extreme emotional torment- is an act of love, not fear.


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos.ocm





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