Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
Amy was the founder of Project Semicolon, an incentive-based suicide prevention movement. By “incentive-based” I mean that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people have tattoos, t-shirts, jewelry (me), and wall decor sporting semicolons. The meaning behind this symbol is simply that semicolons are placed where sentences could end, but the author chooses to continue anyway.
This symbol is deeply personally meaningful to me. There are times it has reminded me to focus on life. On bad days I wear the jewelry; on better days the sentiment resides in my heart.
For the past five years, my voice has joined those of thousands of advocates, trying to make a dent in the world’s understanding of mental illness, especially major depression. Yet repeatedly among the majority of my friends and acquaintances I hear and read a steady flow of stigma.
This is discouraging, however at least I have a voice. Millions do not. What is it like for those who struggle in silence? Well, let me tell you.
People suffer and are afraid to talk about it because they will be mocked. Rejection and dismissal loom very near. This sounds like, “I was depressed once. I get it.” “You’ve no reason to be sad.” “Get up! You’re so lazy!” “You just want attention.” Within religious circles judgment can be based on ignorance of the facts. “You can be happy if you choose to praise God.”
Indirect stigma can seem more benign but cuts deeply. “Sally is seeing a shrink. She’s such a schizoid.” “I wish I had OCD so I could keep my house clean.” “Dan is using depression as an excuse to take time off right when we are so busy! He could be here if he wanted to.”
Sadly, Amy recently died by suicide. It’s heartbreaking, and for us who face mental health challenges, it is especially so. No one was more surrounded by the semicolon movement than she. Amy knew what to do, had a profound voice, and yet suffered silently anyway. We will never know why.
Ultimately, each of us is responsible for saving our life. We have to build a mindset of hope before a crisis occurs. A plan of action, accountability, and the hard work of therapy is the job of any of us with depression. Major depression is a tough foe. We need to train for the fight, and prepare for the win.
Sometimes people lose the battle. I am not suggesting that anyone who dies by suicide “failed” in any way. I know I have to arm myself with more than a semi-colon.
Dear Amy Bleuel. I did not know her, but greatly miss her presence in the world.
Today’s Helpful Word
Psalm 33: 20-22
“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.”
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.