Tag Archives: mental illness

For One of the Least of These: Helping The Stranger

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

woman in black long sleeved shirt
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Dehumanizing a person in our thoughts or speech makes it easier to fear and hate. Dehumanizing a people group works the same way. Equating a race or gender with animals is one way in which society has dehumanized people. Another form of such dehumanization occurs when struggles with mental health are demonized or wrapped up in one word- crazy. 

Fear of people with histories of mental illness is reaching new extremes. Reporting on the very few violent types carelessly connects mental illness with murder. Truth is, the vast majority of people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence. Those who have attempted suicide are not going to “go off” and attack others. 

We need to better understand what brings a person to the point they are homicidal. Mental illness may be a factor, but is not a predictor. 

For example, a recent mass shooter was reported to have seen a psychiatrist. I believe the article said he had visited this doctor one time. The story implied that because he had seen a psychiatrist he must be crazy, and therefore ended up killing people. Here is another way of looking at it. He saw a psychiatrist only once, and did not follow through with treatment, hence did not accept the help offered to him. 

By equating “he saw a psychiatrist” with murderous behavior, stigma is encouraged. People who will benefit from psychiatric care may feel shamed into not going. 

Beyond mass shooters and other criminals are millions of people who for one reason or another struggle with mental illness to varying degrees. Instead of being knowledgeable and learning to practice healthy boundaries, we run away or ignore them.

We have each been a stranger. For whatever reason, we have each been judged. It has never benefited us to feel misunderstood. In this way, we can relate to those who are ostracized because of their mental health history. 

Here is today’s invitation. If you know someone with a past of mental illness, say hello.  This website offers information on how to be supportive. Simple internet searches will lead you to such information as well.

Be wise. I am not suggesting we ignore one’s history of violent behavior and invite them to hang out with our families. I am simply inviting you to avoid dehumanizing someone based on a history of mental illness. Let’s drop the negative assumptions and fear. Let’s drop the hate and “lock ’em all up” attitude which is growing in the U.S.

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 25: 37

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers (and sisters), you did it to me.’

 

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

Part 2 Silence No More: Go from Voiceless to Heard by Overcoming Fear

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Secrets and shame lead to silence. Whether your story is about emotional struggles, mental illness, addiction, or abuse,  you may feel voiceless.  

Silence no more!  You can speak up and be heard.  Three obstacles likely stand in the way.  The first is false beliefs,  discussed in part one of this series. This post and the next cover the other two.  

Obstacle # 2 : Fear of what will happen once you speak

Let’s face it. Silence has its pay-offs. Status quo is familiar, and familiarity is comfortable.  

We also know that fear is paralyzing, and interrupts our joy.  Same-old is tiresome, and possibly dangerous.  Continuing to make the same choices that never worked, or ceased  benefitting us, will keep us stuck. 

Needed: Support

Asking for help means admitting to your challenge.  That’s okay. You are not alone. There are systems already in place. Whether you need to escape abuse, find recovery, or deal with mental health issues, trust those systems.

We are fearful of change, and do not know what these organizations or people can do to help. They are the experts, who gladly answer these questions.  We have to trust safe people who have devoted their lives to helping.

Domestic violence shelters are led by trained personnel, able to guide you safely through the uncertainty of child care, finances, work, and legal issues.

Mental health professionals are ready to help  with troublesome thoughts and emotions.  If you are in crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

Rehabilitation Treatment Centers require some proof that you are investing in your recovery. Go through those hoops and take it seriously.  Once in, follow the advice of worthy men and women who know what works. 

Who to contact

If you can find no help in your area, search online for reputable sites.  (Be careful, do not  offer identifying information).  On my resource pages, you will find  emergency numbers  and links to sites offering the information you need.

The Truth About Abuse       Addiction Recovery          If You Are Depressed or Anxious 

What to Do/Say When a Loved One is Depressed

Needed: Back-up

It is a good idea to have that initial support in place before you broaden the scope of your voice.  Chances are, like most of us, you set-up a façade in the past. The false image that all is well has helped you cope. Taking the mask off will surprise those who know you.

Some people will not believe your story.  Others may walk away.  Be prepared.  

If you can, practice using your voice with those who  relate and are non-judgmental.  In support groups, group therapy,  and anonymous 12-step groups,  you will find non-critical acceptance.  If these are scarce in your area,  perhaps a healthy online service is an option. (Again, be careful.  Do not use your real name.)  

With support from people who build you up on an ongoing basis,  your voice will grow strong.   

Next 

Stay tuned for a solution to obstacle #3, procrastination.  

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 121: 1,2   (A song for pilgrims)

 I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

    

******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, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: Climbers top by AYLA87; Climbers bottom  by MIMICA,  both of rgbstock.com

 

Part 1 Silence No More: Go from Voiceless to Heard by Overcoming False Belief

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

The freedom to live by your values is not out of reach!

Secrets and shame equal silence

Emotional struggles, mental illness, addiction, and abuse tend to embrace secrets and shame.  We who live with them may feel voiceless and unknown.

Silence no more!  You can, with help, release those chains and stand up for yourself.  There are three obstacles to overcome first. They are covered in this and the next two posts. 

Obstacle #1:  False beliefs

My almost complete silence about experiences that were slowly destroying me, was based on false hope.  Unaware of facts, emotions,  or my role,  I scrutinized truth under a misaligned perspective.  I believed the wrong people, and did not trust my instincts.  False beliefs had no strong challenger, and served to enable abusers and prolong my shame.

This is not unique. 

False Belief – “My story is unimportant.”

This idea holds back many if not most of those who suffer. One’s experience is held up in comparison to all the evils in the world, and judged unworthy of attention.

Truth is, we all have a genuine basic need for validation.  This means simply having someone believe us, agree our pain is real,  and respond in a way that proves our experiences matter.

By dismissing our story as unimportant, we essentially deny ourselves a solution.  One therapist told me, “I have never really seen anyone move forward without validation.”

Crisis workers, helpline volunteers,  and professionals in the fields of mental illness, addiction, or abuse, may be better suited to meet this need than well-meaning friends, family, or clergy.  That is not disrespect. It is acknowledging that significant supports do not always know how to give quality validation under circumstances they are not trained to understand.

I found this safety in therapists – your experience may be different.  Keep looking until you are heard.

False Belief – “I do not matter” or  “It is selfish to waste time on myself”

Perhaps your sense of personal value is shaky.  Remember that any of us who have moved out of silence and gone on to help our families and other people, had to first invest in ourselves.

Self-doubt is powerful.  Continue learning.  Listen to positive feedback, and do not dismiss it.  Collect affirmations on a list.  Ask people you trust why you matter to them!

Believe in God’s love and your inherent value. You can start to grow this faith by reading first the New Testament Book of John in the Bible.

Finally, please consider the messengers who filled you with your sense of worthlessness, helplessness,  and fear. If they are liars, haters, narcissists, self-protective at all costs, emotionally immature, or stuck in their own false beliefs, they could be wrong, couldn’t they? What if all those negative messages are false? That changes everything!

Next 

Stay tuned for a discussion on obstacle #2, fear of what might happen if we speak up. 

 Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 2: 6-10

For the Lord grants wisdom!
    From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.  He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.  Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,  and you will find the right way to go.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.

 

******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, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: Climber  by COLUMBINE ; Raised hands by COSTIQ , both of rgbstock.com

 

You Can’t Fix Stupid So Be Its Antithesis

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Some people choose to be blind to the obvious, deaf to rebuttals, and carelessly unthinking.  The motives behind this are anyone’s guess. 

Important note

I am not describing people who thoughtfully disagree.  This is not about making mistakes or having less education. In no way am I referring to opposing religious points of view, immaturity of youth, or differences in mental capacity. 

I’m talking about those who literally flat-out refuse to consider outside perspectives and continue to do so. Social media gives voice to the opinions of such people. One scent of rumor and they are off,  spreading make-believe “facts” without flinching.

One ancient example

This is not only a modern issue.  In approximately 30 AD, an amazing event took place in Jerusalem.*  Here too, scoffers denied what they were seeing and hearing. Immediately they assumed the worst and began defaming those involved.

Jerusalem was an international hub of activity with leaders from countries around the world meeting there.  At the time of this particular event, presumably there were more than the usual number of visitors because of the annual Jewish Feast of Weeks, celebrating the first harvest of grain.

One morning was interrupted when at least twelve Jewish men experienced the phenomenal.  It is safe to say that Jerusalem and the world were never the same again.

These men (with perhaps others totaling around 120 people), were gathered in a house when suddenly there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind. Each person saw tongues as of fire appear and rest on his head.

Then it became interesting.

The amazing and the absurd

This group began speaking in foreign languages not previously learned. We know this was not gibberish because thousands of Jerusalem citizens and visitors came running at the sound.

People from every nation under heaven saw evidence of the power of God. Each heard of Jesus and salvation preached in his or her native language. Naturally, astonishment seized the crowd. Questions circled. What does this mean? Are not all the speakers from the area known as Galilee? Bewildered, there was no denying what was happening in front of their eyes. 

Some observers though jumped to the only conclusion they were willing to accept. Surely, these Jews,  speaking intelligently in languages thousands of foreigners understood, must be… drunk.  Yes, that makes sense. Drunk persons often burst out in perfect oration in tongues they do not know. Sure.

That is why we cannot fix stupid when one gladly embraces it. Some people do not want to ponder. It is easier to dismiss the incredible than to face it. Quite simply, brainless is their comfort zone.

Hope

Ignorance is fixable through education. Closed minds are opened the same way. Hearts and thinking patterns – all changeable. I know this because I have grown. You and I are not those who refuse to think through difficult topics. This blog appeals to us because we want to learn.

Spread the word! Evidence is compiling fast that major depression is not an indicator of a personality or spiritual flaw.  Other forms of mental illness also respond well to treatment.  Denying mental illness exists, or that depression is not an illness, is to  ignore the witness of millions of us who have lived it.  

I encourage each of us, yes me too, to continue thoughtful consideration of mental health issues. Refusal to understand affects social perception. That in turn affects treatment options.

Examine. Pray. Seek wisdom. Be an antithesis to stupid.

**********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, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral 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 are yours.

*From the Bible book Acts. Chapter two.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Share Your Mental Health Story? Be Wise

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

For any of us who have struggled with mental illness and gone public about it, sometimes there is a price to pay.

Unfortunate stigma has people believing that 1) suicide attempt survivors are violent; 2) anyone with a mental illness is unreliable; and 3) living with a mental illness means one could “go off” at any time. 

If I were hiring and believed all the above, it would be natural to hesitate. It is tough to explain the truth to potential employers when no one will offer an interview. 

Trust is difficult to regain. I have friends and family who still believe that people with mental illness are likely violent. It is disappointing because i thought by now they will have heard me and smashed such stigmas.  

The founder of a ministry, a therapist,  agreed to a meeting to discuss if  I could play a role in his work.  Immediately he asked about my diagnosis and before I could tell what marketable skills I offer, His facial expressions and body language moved from potential employer to fixer.  I knew I was wasting my time. It was condescending under the circumstances.

Would I go back and keep my mental health history a secret? My story came out  in 2013. Some people treat me differently. It’s been tough finding work.  If you Google me you get mental health issues and my story.  There’s no hiding now. 

Good has come of it too! How could I weigh personal losses against the value of a life? Some faces are unforgettable, like the ones who tell me I’ve given them hope.  In my best estimation (because who can really know) I think at least one person is alive because of my openness. I’ve seen family members improve in their support of struggling loved ones. So many have read my blog and heard my radio interviews, there is simply no way of knowing the result. 

If you have or plan to go public with your mental illness,  good for you! We need more voices. However, think carefully before you do. Due to a few generously honest celebrities,  the national conversation has begun.

Be wise.

 **********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, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral 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 are yours.

 

 

Are You Faking Mental Health?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Violet questions her value.

Tom yells and cusses at other drivers.

James is brutal with self-criticism.  

Makia apologizes frequently. 

Shannon avoids important social events.

Do you have a similar experience?

What mental health looks like

We think we know what mental illness is (whether we do or not). Do we understand mental health? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” 

How do you think you score in those departments?  For Violet, Tom, James, Makia, and Shannon, well-being in the following areas may be goals. 

Well-being is believing in your worth.

Well-being is calm and patient toward others.  

Well-being is accepting your imperfect humanness.

Well-being does not apologize for existing

Well-being is the ability  to function and participate in life. 

It pays to check

Are you at premium mental health?  

Mental illness is diagnosed with ongoing symptoms that interfere with one’s ability to function. The person with a mental illness suffers frequent stress due to those symptoms.

Nevertheless, how often do we bother to assess our mental health? This requires some introspection and a desire to achieve well-being.  I believe mental health is akin to contentment. It does not make sense to skip over that.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 33: 13-15

The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.  From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  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 can be yours.

-pictures from qualitystockphotos

Mental Illness and Random Shootings: 3 Points from an Evolved Point of View

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

In 2012, my world consisted of therapy appointments, medicine adjustments, adjusting to a new worldview, weekly attendance to a support group, much fear, and a seedling of an idea.

Always The Fight Ministries had no name or structure. One or two speaking opportunities and writing my first book were early accomplishments.  Still in recovery from a severe major depressive episode and suicide attempt in early 2011, my thoughts were a constant battle between dreams for the future and ongoing hopelessness.

Since the world of mental health and recovery advocacy was new to me, some unfortunate stigma made its way into my writing and sharing.  It is no surprise because in America illogical and not-so-knowledgeable assumptions about mental illness and those who live with it prevail. What I understood back then and what I know now are not always the same. 

A few months ago I set a goal of re-editing over 400 blog posts on this website, purposefully bringing information up-to-date. In the process I ran across several in need of change.  One of them, titled Mental Illness and Random Shootings, was written in 2012.  Without intending harm, in ignorance I implied the cause of mass murders is mental illness. That is wrong.

Words like violent, crazy, and scary are often assigned to people in general who live with mental illness. These are unfair and unduly harmful. Here’s why:

(1)  The man you see on the street corner who is talking to himself and batting at imaginary nuisances may be suffering from a type of schizophrenic disorder.  The friendly woman sitting next to you at work may be living with the same condition.  Fact is,  both the man and the woman are highly unlikely to harm you. Rather, they are”10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population”*  Of all the frightening news stories and skewed banter, only 3%-5%* of violent acts are committed by persons living with serious mental illness.

(2) In response to mass shootings, media coverage most often offers only two options: either the perpetrator was mildly or dangerously mentally ill.  Mental health research is not aligned with that type of black and white analysis. 

Mass shootings “represent anecdotal distortions of … the actions of “mentally ill” people as an aggregate group.”**  For example, did you know the national average of those without a diagnosis of mental illness who commit crimes involving guns is higher than for those who are?**

(3)  Alcohol and drug use “increase the risk of violent crime by as much as 7-fold”, even among persons with no history of mental illness.***  In light of the growing mob mentality toward people who live with mental illness, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) concurs with the idea we are better off looking at real risk factors, the chief of which are being a young male or a substance abuser (alcohol or drugs).  The small minority of people with mental illness who commit acts of violence are those with untreated psychosis.  

These years later,  Always The Fight Ministries is a functioning and focused entity. It has blossomed with experience and is evolving as all good ideas do.  Like the seed of an idea can grow,  so can our understanding. I hope you will join me on this trek to know and promote the facts.   

Today’s Helpful Word

Isaiah 61: 11   A promise!

“For as the earth puts out buds, and as the garden gives growth to the seeds which are planted in it, so the Lord will make righteousness and praise to be flowering before all the nations.”

**********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.

*Mental Health Myths and Facts. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, MentalHealth.gov. Retrieved on July 5, 2017 from  https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/index.html

**Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhDcorresponding author and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD .   Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms. American Journal of Public Health. 2015 February; 105(2): 240–249. Published online 2015, Retrieved on July 5, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318286/

*** Marvin S. Swartz, M.D., Jeffrey W. Swanson, Ph.D., Virginia A. Hiday, Ph.D.,
Randy Borum, Psy.D., H. Ryan Wagner, Ph.D., and Barbara J. Burns, Ph.D.   Violence and Severe Mental Illness: The Effects of Substance Abuse and Nonadherence to Medication. Journal of Psychiatry 155:2, February 1998. Retrieved on July 6, 2017 from 
 http://www.antoniocasella.eu/archipsy/Swartz_1998.pdf

Additional information retrieved July 5, 2017 from http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/key-issues/violence/3633-risk-factors-for-violence-in-serious-mental-illness

seedling pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com, flowers by MACIEKLEW on rgbstock.com

 

Legal Doctor Prescribed Death – Will YOU Survive?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2013 Nancy Virden

In 2005, Terry Schivo was the center of an international debate over human dignity, quality of life, and the power of medicine. On permanent life support, and severely brain-damaged with no chance of recovery, her parents insisted Terry live, while her husband claimed she had previously asked to be allowed to die if this should happen to her. Her husband eventually won the battle.  

For thousands of years no one survived with a dead brain. Suddenly we have the technology, and Do Not Resuscitate forms and Living Wills. These are being signed and filed into legal systems. How do we know if living for living’s sake is not what we want?

What a devastating decision – either to allow a loved one to die or let them live in a state we dread for ourselves. Life is sacred, however the platitude I have heard frequently is to just trust God. Tell that to families of the painfully and terminally ill. Say that to the parent of a child living as a vegetable. Try to wrap up anyone’s sorrow into such an easy blanket. It does not work. It does not work because science can keep us breathing and hearts beating long after we would have died naturally. Science says it can freeze us and maybe we can live forever!

Why does this matter to me twelve years after Terry Schivo’s death? It matters because medical and legal systems are now promoting suicide. Talk about going too far! We are talking about legal doctor prescribed death!

Our emotions can get the better of us when we hear stories about people like Terry, or those who are going to die anyway. When someone chooses the date of their death, we sympathize with their pain and perhaps wonder if we would do the same.  

Emotions rarely guide us well.

According to a survey of 15,800 physicians, 40% have biases against patients with certain health problems. At the top of the list are those with emotional problems (62%).  

Remember when we used to automatically throw persons with emotional “problems” (no doubt mental illness in most cases) into institutions and lock them away?  Instead of this society becoming more enlightened and educated, we have become so cruel as to pass “End of Life Option” laws.  Do not be fooled, these measures do not protect vulnerable people.

In California for instance, the law states that the Public Health Department must investigate the details of a patient’s death after he or she died. However, that information is not accessible to authorities. While there are safeguards against only one doctor or family member making all the decisions, there is no protection from a biased or even murderous doctor who has ultimate autonomy when prescribing an aid-in-dying drug. As long as the doctor dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s, he or she is safe from criminal liability.   

Also in California, witnesses are required to be present at the patient’s initial signing of a request to die. Neither of these witnesses have to be doctors or mental health professionals. After official steps have been taken, and after a patient has possession of the aid-in-dying drug, he or she is to sign a final attestation form stating a true desire to die. Again, after the person’s death, the form is to be given to the prescribing doctor. No witnesses are required to attend the signing. No witnesses means coerced or fraudulent signatures have a pass. 

There are more problems with the law, such as the doctor can choose whether to send the patient to a mental health care provider for assessment. Laws like this do not effectively shut the door on assisted-suicide or euthanasia. In fact, they are a step closer to what some people want – the right to decide another person’s death.

An activist group now calling themselves Compassion and Choices (simply a cover-up name for the more recognizable Hemlock Society), is arguing more types of people should qualify for legally prescribed death. Big surprise – those with long-term mental illness are among those named. (Also seniors with “terminal old age”).  

My heart breaks for the vulnerables. Yes, I am one of them and woefully aware of the power of stigma and bias. As one with a long-term mental illness, I see it all the time. In friendships, with strangers, in church, at the hospital, in the doctor’s office – even in (rare) impatience coming from therapists. The process of retraining the mind is long and arduous. People don’t like it, and expect me (and millions of others) to snap out of it instantly.  

The wanted versus unwanted message poured down our throats since Roe vs. Wade has affected us at deep levels.  Even young people are dying by suicide in rising numbers. How, in the throes of desperation and despair, is one to find reason to live when the world is screaming, “Go ahead, decrease the population. You are costing us too much. You make us uncomfortable.” It’s as if courts and doctors are standing below a high-rise and shouting, “Jump!”

It is unnatural to take human life no matter what the Hemlock Society wants to call it. Absent of life support extending a dead person’s life, snatching control from God’s hands and deciding today is the day, is to deny his timing and sovereignty. Is he big enough to help us face another hour? Is he wise enough to get us through the next ten years? Is his purpose and plan thwarted because we suffer? I’m personally counting on no.

It is still insensitive at best to tell someone thinking about suicide that he or she should just trust God. Trust yes, “just” nothing. It is hard work climbing out of despair.

If you are struggling with the value of your life, pray, seek human support, keep looking until you find someone who gets it and can help. Take one step then another then another.  If you are in danger of suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

God will see us through. One day we will rejoice in heaven. in his time.

Today’s Helpful Word

Genesis 1:27

“God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my 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 can be yours.

*picture by GESINEK on rgbstock.com

My Depressed Loved One Won’t Get Out of Bed. What Am I to Say?

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

(Today’s blog is a repost of the most popular and shared article on my website, first published two years ago.) 

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Depression, whether triggered by circumstances we can see or not, is a place of pain. We may experience it to some level or another, but when a person won’t get out of bed you can bet she or he is hurting badly.

I know it is hard to take care of someone who is sick. It challenges our agendas and causes us to sacrifice more time and energy. Depression is especially painful to watch when we love who is suffering. Often, we feel helpless though this is not exactly true! 

Each person with depression experiences it differently.   Commonalities, such as a few predictable symptoms,  do not mean one-solution-fits-all.   If circumstances could be exactly replicated, individuals will still have unique reactions. It is tempting to think others “ought” to respond or feel as we do. 

Consider this:  Is it reasonable to assume millions of people each year would choose to have their lives interrupted in such a way? It makes more sense that your loved one prefers laughter, meaningful relationships, and accomplishment, does it not? If a person you care about seems unwilling to move, out of sheer stubbornness, laziness, or self-pity, remember no one wants to be depressed.

Your loved-one needs love and affection, non-critical acceptance, and patience. Emotions are raw. Pain may be so intense that his or her body cannot keep up. Major depression reroutes best intentions into days staring at the walls.  Every joint can move as if in slow motion. This daily fight creates a hero with each small step forward.

Despair and a sense of helplessness continued to hold my focus for over a year following a suicide attempt. I was considered treatment-resistant, a problem for some. Baby steps of self-care slowly led to more, then eventually to more. Sixteen months later,  I was able to decide to learn what enjoying life means.

“Well, of course!” you might say. “So why doesn’t my depressed loved one do that too?”

Your loved one may not know how.  Losses and disappointments can interfere with human thinking processes. Issues, both known and unknown, may hold a person hostage for a time. Stress, betrayal, shock, trauma, and abuse are only a few triggers of depression. Sometimes, we do not have an answer to ‘why?’ 

Professionals in mental healthcare are there to help. Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD, DO).  They prescribe medication; rarely do they offer therapy. Psychologists are experts in human behavior and are often therapists (PhD, PsyD). They do not prescribe medication. Licensed therapists and counselors are trained to help clients cope in healthy ways.

It is of utmost importance you recognize your loved one’s mental health is a complex mix of factors. We are body, mind, and spirit.  Addressing all three spheres is wise. 

You would not say to a cancer patient, “Quit having cancer!” Yet many are quick to tell a person with major depression to snap out of it. Blaming, accusing, scolding, or shaming will not make it go away any faster.

What is it you can say or do to show support?

Avoid mind-reading and assuming you know what is happening.  Ask, “Are you safe? Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  In the U.S., you can  contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for advice.  In a crisis,  call 911 or take your loved one to the nearest emergency room.  Do not leave a suicidal person alone. Remove all lethal items from the home. 

Show your depressed loved one you care. In the depths of an episode, he or she may not believe “I love you.” Say it anyway. Promising, “I’m here for you,” may seem more substantial, however you must keep your word in practical ways. Broken promises reinforce a sense of rejection and worthlessness.

Help to combat your friend’s or relative’s sense of aloneness. “I’m going to work, but I’ll check on you when I get home” offers a positive look toward the future and a reminder that your concern is not temporary. “Would you like your friend to come over? I’ll call her” is a valuable service because major depression makes even tiny decisions challenging.

Set-up or offer to go with your loved one to the first appointment with a mental health professional.  Do not assume this will be a quick-fix solution, and instead accept that you both may be in for a long haul. Just as there are less helpful, and better equipped professionals in any walk of life, mental health professionals do not connect with every client. If your loved one is not satisfied, help find someone else.   

Avoid some common reactionary mistakes. These include: “You are neglecting your family”; “Quit being so morose, it’s not good for you”; “Just go to work already”; “You’re lazy”. Comments like these are most likely attempts to change a situation to make it more comfortable. They are not helpful.

Place emphasis on the value of the person instead of on disappointments.  Say, “I am glad you are alive.” “Stay with me, we’ll get through this together,” may be met with a blank stare. Nonetheless, this type of encouragement matters. It is like water on desert soil. photo-24734018-bread-toast-with-a-fried-egg-in-a-heart-shape.

Above all else, just be there. Sit by that bed and do not say anything. Read a book, do your homework, banking, or research on your laptop. Get on Facebook or Twitter and enjoy your friends while your majorly depressed loved one lays next to you. It is ok to laugh, cry, or share a story from your day. Keep your expectations for responses low, and just be there.

Compassionate love learns to meet people where they are.

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Please read:  I’m Depressed and Can’t Get Out of Bed. What Am I To Do?

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Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 13:4,5

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…”  -Saint Paul 

To learn how a relationship with Jesus creates eternal hope, click here

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

But… Isn’t Depression A Spiritual Problem? (A Post for Christians)

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2013 Nancy Virden

close up of a beautiful young woman looking upwardsTo many, “Isn’t depression a spiritual problem?” may seem moot because they do not equate mental or biological conditions with spiritual ones. Others reject the causal brain chemistry theory of mental illnesses for the opposite reason. They believe all mental trials are spiritually based.

Comments from either of these groups do not help those who struggle with  depression.

Our existence is three-in-one. Spirit, mind, and body are so interlaced that any illness of any one part affects the rest. Depression is a treatable physical, spiritual, and mental challenge. 

Stigma ignores depression’s complexities.  In some christian churches, this can translate into spiritual judgment which actually prevents a hurting person from coming to Christ or to fellowship for support.

6  truths about depression you may not know

(1) Depression is not simple or easy to overcome. It is a multi-faceted health issue. We can compare recovery from depression to long-term physical therapy in that an episode takes time, teamwork, and effort to overcome.

Lynne Canenta*, a therapist with over 25 years experience, told me, “God gives us insight into who he is so we can accept salvation. After that, it is a process. There is not a “zap” and we go from unhealthy thinking to healthy thinking.”

(2) Depression is not inappropriate for discussion. Sharing human struggles takes courage and faith. It sets an example for others to accept their brokenness as part of a normal spiritual walk. People realize they are not alone in their pain when we are open and real.

(3) Depression is not a ploy for attention. Severe emotional struggles may naturally and temporarily turn one’s focus inward because pain washes out everything else. Imagine a woman who just broke her leg. Without pain relief her thoughts will center on it. 

One of the worst experiences for people with depression is when someone ignores or judges them for talking about it.  

(4) Depression is not without purpose.  Whatever we suffer can result in renewal. For me, gaining fresh insight into matters of forgiveness, guilt, distorted thinking, healthy relationships, and more is an opportunity to step back from what is false.

As weird as it may sound, major depression and its treatment have ultimately been catalysts for my physical and spiritual healing. The Bible is clearer, and the love of God reaches my heart.

(5) Depression is not spiritual failure. Because depression numbs positive emotions and can slow cognitive abilities, a depressed believer may feel spiritually dead.  That does not make it true.   

Christ is always faithful. Even as my brain told me I had disappointed God,  when his presence or love was no longer felt,  it was trust in his promise that held steady.  “Though your mother and father forsake you, I will never abandon you.” (Psalm 27:10).  My desire to honor him remained even when I did not know how to function. Depression messed with my thinking, not my faith.

(6) Depression is not sin.  A woman asked me, “Depression can be sin sometimes, right?” Feelings are never sin, they happen. We can learn to manage them. 

I think she was troubled by how long it takes for some to return to her version of normal. She implied in our conversation that the absence of joy for too long a period was disobedience to God. Her definition of “too long” is anyone’s guess.

I have on occasion fallen into victim-mode or self-pity, both of which can help feed an already present depression.  What matters is the condition of my spiritual heart. If I need to repent of an attitude, I will.  If God is teaching me, and I  am listening,  then my faith in Jesus is alive and growing despite how I feel.  No one will ever be perfect. 

It is unbelievably hard to change one’s worldview, perhaps especially when trained as a child to see God and relationships in a negative light.  Only our Heavenly Father knows how far one has traveled to reach for life. We cannot measure another person’s spiritual health, especially by such superficial means as emotions  or illnesses. 

Depression by its nature distorts our thinking. Because of this, one’s sense of morality and inhibition may weaken due to the rising, potent need for relief.  Are we responsible at that point for our choices? Absolutely!  However, the sins of specific behaviors should not be confused with depression itself.

Love is patient

Truth must be taken from God’s Word and not movies or superstitions!  According to the Bible,  God is near to those who are faint of heart.  It is not complicated.  God teaches us and draws us closer to himself through pain sometimes. He has put no time limit on our learning.

Let us accept believers of Jesus, who struggle with depression (or any mental illness), as equal participants in God’s grace.  

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 119: 71, 72

“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.”

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NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, go to your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help and hope can be yours!

*picture from qualitystockphotos.ocm