Ask, Listen, and Save a Life

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

Imagine for a moment, you are in a pitch-black room.  People you believe to be in the same room are speaking in your direction. However, you cannot understand what they mean; some of the language is foreign, and then there’s the gibberish.

They say, “We love all this sunshine! Isn’t this wonderful?”

You incredulously mention the room’s darkness. “Do you understand where we are?”  

You hear, “It’s bright, you are just refusing to see it.”

True story

The doctor’s blurred face hovered above mine.

Click. Click.

My vision was doubling at a fast pace. Due with my first baby in two months,  I wondered what this ophthalmologist could add to the various diagnoses and advice I had already received.

Click. Click.

He stepped back. In a brusk, commanding voice he said, “Nothing wrong.”

Surprised, I realized this was the first doctor to deny the problem. Birth control pills, a need for prism glasses, and even stress had been blamed for the worsening double vision I first reported five years earlier. But not this. Not “nothing wrong.”

“Everything in this office is double,” I said. “The machines, your face…”

“You just imagine.” His broken English was angry. He glared at me. I was intimidated, and afraid to say more.

“But it’s worse than a month ago…”

“It not worse. You just notice now.” He was raising his voice. You leave, come back see me in six weeks.”

His confusing words drove me to seek yet another opinion. Two months later, newborn in tow, a neurologist announced the news.

“You have a giant aneurism growing behind your left eye. Let’s do surgery today.”

Saving a life starts with listening

It is frustrating when one’s feelings and experiences are invalidated. Whether by a misogynist doctor or a good friend, it is not fun being ignored. In the world of mental healthcare, dismissal is dangerous.

If a person is showing signs of depression, and perhaps you have picked up on some dark thoughts, do not walk away. I know it is hard to face the idea that a loved one is suicidal. I know it is awkward and potentially embarrassing to bring it up. I know it is scary to think of frustrating that person even more. But do not walk away. 

A simple question can cost us emotional energy. It does not have to. Ask your loved one non-judgementally, “Are you thinking of hurting yourself? Are you considering suicide?” By doing so you allow them to feel accepted, safe, and loved. You show you care enough to be involved. In this world, that is rare. 

Be special. Be the one who listens. Save a life.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 John 3:18

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; 

let us show the truth by our actions.


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.

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