Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
I was offended when I read one hospital report 5 1/2 years ago. Instead of “suicide attempt” someone had called my most desperate and despairing moments a “suicide gesture.” Truthfully, I do not know clearly why certain terms are used in clinical situations; maybe gesture does not mean what I thought it did.
To me, the use of “gesture” was a dismissal of my words. I was already silently screaming at the top of my lungs, expressing pain outward in hesitant whispers. Quiet as I was, at least in comparison to the loud, gasping cries of body and mind, I meant what I said. This hospital report supported my fear that no one would believe me.
You know from your own experiences, when your words are dismissed it is as if you are too. You may feel as I did, that your struggle or joy is unimportant. This was doubly so for me because it was a hospital representative who chose the terminology. I wondered if I should shut up, stuff emotions again, and move on with life on my own. If professional caretakers would not believe what I say, perhaps help was not available for me.
Your loved one, whether a friend, family member, or some other relationship, is depressed. You have already asked how s/he feels. His answers most likely do not make sense to you, or at least you wonder why she will not get up and try harder. Are you at the point of frustration? Is your loved one refusing to open up?
Consider your response to depression. Sometimes we want to fix a person or a situation so much we forget to stop and listen. Two events may be happening: we think we have some control, or we accept our interpretation as the right one. Whether you have control over another person is an absolute no. You will never be able to cure, prescribe a cure, or change a loved one with depression. It will not happen.
As to whether your interpretation is the right one, no one can read another’s mind. What is truly helpful is quietly listening, not judging, not offering advice, and above all, believing what s/he says. This does not mean you agree to every sentiment (such as “everything is hopeless” or “my life doesn’t matter”) however, you can take it seriously when you are told this is how a person feels.
I heard from perhaps a more understanding source, that if one believes they attempted suicide, they did. Rotten stigma says ignorant things like, “If they meant it, they would be dead.” Listen to your loved one. Believe what he says. Validate her feelings. Involve professional help.
Compassionate love learns to accept another’s words at face value.
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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 is yours.