Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
We grieve when children lose their innocence by the unconscionable acts of selfish people. It hurts us to see our young suffer with cancer or hunger or any number of circumstances out of their control. It breaks our hearts when they cry out in pain.
As members of society we look to governments, churches, and schools to solve these issues, to save the children. As parents we are tempted to shake some reason into other parents who seem to vacillate between ignoring basic discipline or controlling their children too much.
The reason we have these reactions is children tug at our softest emotions. It is their dependence on us as adults that makes us feel responsible for the outcomes of their lives. In short, we care.
Somehow, it bypasses our thinking that children can suffer depression and despair severe enough to take their own lives. In fact, when that happens, parents are usually blamed. We struggle to comprehend how a child could feel so deeply or process the idea of suicide without some terrible outside influence.
The most important thing to remember is that suicide is most often due to an undiagnosed and untreated mental disorder. Mental disorders do not appear to discriminate between age groups. As a matter of fact, half of those who have a mental disorder will show signs of it by the age of fourteen! That is half of millions in America alone.
Many children are dealing with a mental illness that interferes with their daily ability to function. Most go untreated because we have the idea that children are moody, temperamental, and immature. Their emotions and expressions of hopelessness are brushed off with well-intentioned platitudes like, “Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning” or “Of course you’re fine – Jimmy is coming to play tomorrow.”
I meet many survivors of suicide loss. No matter how long ago a relative, friend, co-worker, or any significant person took their own life, each survivor has a lingering question. Why?
Imagine then the insurmountable sorrow of a parent whose child dies by suicide. Shame, guilt, fear of reprisal, and other stigma related issues often keep these parents in the shadows. They may refer to their child’s death as an accident, or “they died in their sleep.” Some do not answer truthfully the inevitable question from strangers, “How many children do you have?” “Why?”haunts their dreams.
In this post alone are 5 reasons that learning and talking about mental illness and suicide is crucial to our society:
- Each of us have the opportunity to save lives if we understand and do not condemn those in emotional or mental crisis.
- Parents can know what to look for in their children and respond more effectively to signs of depression and suicide.
- Children can be taught when to recognize dark thoughts, and shown who the safe people to reach out to are: trained teacher, school counselors or nurses, etc. They will receive professional treatment which is nearly always successful.
- Treatment will become available and affordable when our conversation around mental health and illness is based on factual knowledge. Depression left untreated tends to get worse as time goes on. Early intervention saves adult lives as well.
- Survivors of suicide loss will receive support instead of odd looks and withdrawal by those who know the situation. They can “go public” with their stories and thus pass on inspiration and hope to other families and children.
Do you see? Knowledge is power, and this power saves lives.
Compassionate love learns.
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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.
– picture from Kozzi.com