Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
Whenever I tell my story of recovery after attempted suicide, I have learned to expect one or more of the following responses.
1. “My (insert loved one- son, mother, friend, etc.) killed himself (or herself).”
Often, the speaker leans away or makes some movement indicating discomfort and distrust. Once he or she realizes I am interested and not judgmental, the torrent starts.
I learn about the day their loved one died, what warning signs were left before the suicide, and memories of the victim. Always, the suicide was unexpected. Without fail, the survivor suffers guilt.
Many of these suicides were in the far past. Decades and even generations later, suicide continues to hurt those left behind.
2. “I have been there.”
I hear this at every official event and in most casual gatherings where my story is shared whether the topic was advertised ahead of time or not. The sheer number of people who have experienced such severe depression and hopelessness is staggering.
3. “How can I help my friend (or family member) who is depressed?”
With worried faces and often desperation in their voices, people want to know how to “fix” others who struggle with depression. Sometimes the plea for normalcy is an angry one. They are disappointed that life has become so hard because a loved one is dysfunctional.
Usually, when I reply that none of us can fix anyone else and the best support is non-judgmental, people remain upset or worried and leave with a difficult understanding. Others hear hope and immediately embrace learning more practical ideas.
4. “No one understands.”
A psychologist attended a conference with others in his field. Their overwhelming consensus was that the number one hardship for patients is a lack of effective support at home.
Generally, in American society we are clueless how to handle one another’s suffering. The reason is fear based in lack of know-how. Mental illness is especially challenging to understand because we have been and continue to be falsely indoctrinated that people who live with it are scary and possibly violent.
Normalizing mental health issues is an important part of saving lives and treating those who live with mental illness.
5. “I help those who live with mental illness.”
Volunteers, religious leaders, school principals and teachers, professional counselors and therapists, nurses and doctors of nearly every specialty, and others want me to know they are in the fight too. Sometimes they have questions.
Interestingly, psychologists and psychiatrists whom I’ve never met before, want to know what type of therapy I receive, medicines I take, and how I feel now. It is slightly amusing when they assume an automatic right to examine my recovery. It is also nice to see that these caretakers are passionate about their profession. I openly and freely answer most inquiries because if I can help by sharing what works, that is what I want to do.
A stigma surrounding suicide is that those left behind ought somehow be ashamed. Even the topic is taboo. People express gratitude when I listen without advising or overreacting because so often they are not heard.
Today’s Helpful Word
“You [God] listen to the longings of those who suffer.
You offer them hope, and you pay attention
to their cries for help.“
**********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.
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.