Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
She is 18 years old, a waif of a girl, her anxious fingers twirling long and curly hair. Her eyes refuse to lift from the floor.
She is freshly discharged from the hospital. Her struggle is against major depression and despair. She joins this support group bewildered, her hope exhausted. A week ago she tried to kill herself for the third time.
Slowly, over weeks, her story emerges. It is not an atypical tale in settings like this; a girl is ignored by her father, he dismisses her feelings as nonsensical, and he seems to not care she almost took her life.
His reasoning? Suicide attempts, especially repeated ones, are selfish ploys for attention. “It’s ridiculous,” he would say. “Grow up.”
Why is he wrong, or is he? He gets one thing right – her suicide attempts are one way she tries to get her needs met. Her love-tank is so empty she believes she has to go to extreme lengths to receive any love from her dad.
Where her dad misses the point, is that her despair is real. She actually believes death may be her only escape from pain. She does not want to die – she wants the hurt to stop. She achingly longs for her father to love her. Yet repeatedly, she reaches the end of her perceived options.
Is she selfish? Uncaring about the people around her? Having temper-tantrums?
She learns how much her suicide will hurt her little brother and decides she can “not do that to him.” Still, her heart hurts as baby steps toward mental health seem held back by chains. Her helplessness and anguish over her father’s lack of concern, and suicidal thoughts have not ceased.
This girl’s story is one that may confuse some people. Of course she was thinking of herself when she attempted three times! It is not normal to react violently against oneself. Suicide attempts are not immature responses to life’s difficulties. They are desperation, defeat, hopelessness, a sense of worthlessness, anguish, and despair.
No matter how often a loved one attempts, take her seriously. She is not playing a game for the fun of it. Find out what her unmet needs are and with the help of a mental health professional, discover together how she can find fulfillment.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. 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.