Scolding a Severely Depressed Person for Being Depressed Makes it Worse

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

Sam was severely depressed. He spoke of hopelessness freely, and one could tell by his behavior he was upset and struggling.

In support group he reported a need to isolate and hide had earlier plopped him in his closet where he shut the door. His wife didn’t know what to do.

She hollered at him to get up. He could not. Overpowering waves of despair had made it temporarily  too physically strenuous and mentally exhausting to get off the floor.

Sam’s mental health had been going downhill for weeks. He was on leave from work, ignoring his small son, and sitting around the house doing nothing. His wife supported the family financially, and was stressing out about it too. She wanted her husband back, her son’s father back, and normality. She was frightened, so she hollered.

It is difficult to remember in the moment that a majorly depressed person is temporarily ill.  He or she may feel helpless and confused. Even as Sam spoke of his wish to return to work and play with his son, his depression had him hiding in a closet. Guilt added to his dark mood. He wondered aloud if his family would be better off without him.

No one would try to oust the flu by yelling at it.  Depression is invisible, yet real. Behavior appearing lazy or selfish is not necessarily such. It can take a painfully long time to recover.

Sam’s wife’s plea for him to “get up and do something about it” did not feel like encouragement or a friendly kick in the seat. What would have helped is if she joined Sam in the closet and said she loved him and needed him in her life. I know this, because Sam said so. It would have given him hope.  

It is important to remember most of us cannot diagnose or treat another person’s mental illness. Protocol is to reach out for professional help.   

Compassionate love can prevail.

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 69:16,20 (NLT)

Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me. Scorn has broken my heart

    and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
    for comforters, but I found none.

Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.


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

If you are 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. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.., Carlo Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved









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