Comparing Mental Health to “Real” Issues? Not Fair

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

“There’s been a tsunami, people have lost their homes, and there is so much suffering in the world besides. C’mon people. Get it together!”  Jennifer  was frustrated, and although she also was struggling with depression, she believed the stresses others in the Intensive Outpatient Program were facing could not compare to the “real” issues of 2011.

About a dozen persons struggling with severe depression, bipolar depression, and other disorders comprised this group. Several had attempted suicide, some more than once.  Jennifer did not know anyone’s level of pain or personal history.  With only her experience to use as a measuring rod, she scolded members to “get it together,”  adding to feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness. 

I disagree passionately with comparing pain between people, or against ours. The analogy I like to use is that of a stubbed toe and broken leg.  We know a broken bone hurts more intensely at first and for a longer period than a banged foot. It also requires more health care from professionals. Yet will we say the toe pain does not hurt? If we stub a toe,  we will certainly say ouch and limp for few minutes!

In the moment, the throbbing toe demands our attention. If only for a few seconds, we will be unable to function as usual. In the world of mental disorders, the intensity and duration of symptoms can vary. If dysfunction lasts for days or weeks or months, who are we to offhandedly dismiss another person’s experience?

Yes, the world is a collision of serious problems. Comparing trouble to trouble, we will find those who seem to have it worse. If  looking at mental illness from only one perspective however, we can fall into judgementalism and falsely accuse people who are doing their best of making too much of little.

Next time you or someone you know faces depression, anxiety, or any mental illness, remember the stubbed toe. Be kind to each person who struggles to cope.

Today’s Helpful Word

James 3:17

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

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 by LUSI on rgbstock.com

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