Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2012 Nancy Virden
They scattered. Like leaves in an autumn wind, like thieves at the sound of footsteps, like dreams as one awakes, they dispersed quickly and inaudibly.
One would think they had sensed a threat; maybe they heard a warning bell or saw a flashing electronic “danger” light in the sky. For whatever reason they left the scene, what mattered was that the one from whom they ran became isolated, felt rejected, and certain of betrayal.
His name was Joshua. With plenty of friends who viewed him as a fun guy, it was routine for him to suggest a movie or concert only to be overridden by the vote of the majority. Very few of his friends, even the closest ones, showed interest in discussing much beyond work, family, and the latest pastime. Joshua was beginning to wonder if he even had real friends; did any one of them actually care about him?
His mood was sinking. His thoughts were negative. I hate my job. No one likes me for who I am. There is no romance on the horizon. If life has no purpose… why live?
He decided to reach out to his friends and spill these thoughts. The immediate response from most of them was “I understand, I was depressed once.” When he didn’t shake it off and return to being the fun guy quickly, that is when they scattered out of sight.
One friend refused to ride with him in the car, another told him to snap out of it. Invites slowed down, and even his church called on him less often for service opportunities. After a few months, Joshua tried one last time to get someone to listen. This person called the police, and Joshua was prevented from completing suicide.
Most people will never face anything more than the blues or sadness that is relieved within a few days. Even grief does not shut down one’s ability to function for long. Potential supports who have never experienced major depression are not generally knowledgable about its severity.
Knowledge and insight are necessary if we want to effectively help someone who is depressed. Learning what to expect will increase our ability to deal with it.
Insight looks deeper into a specific individual’s heart. Asking good questions (not interrogating) and listening without judgment is foundational to compassionate love.
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.