*911* to Friends. Will We Respond?

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

James* was withdrawn, irritable, and severely depressed. He mumbled dark  statements  occasionally such as, “My life doesn’t matter.”

He was under professional care, however his mood was growing worse. He was convinced no one cared about him (a symptom of major depression).  People in his life knew he was struggling but did not reach out.  He felt increasingly rejected and alone.

No promise versus an empty one

One day a friend said “I’ll come over. We’ll meet every week. How’s tomorrow?”

To James, that little bit was hope. He very much looked forward to this visit. At last, someone cared!  For the first time in weeks, James began to smile.

The next day came, and no friend. No call. No explanation. James felt devastated. This was the final proof he needed that his life was worthless.  His suicidal thoughts increased,  and he went backward mental health-wise. He suffered much from that broken promise – a promise he would have been better off never receiving in the first place.

In moments of sympathy or guilt, we want to offer impulsive promises. Empty, unfulfilled  promises are discouraging and harmful Please do not make them.

Instead, how about laying out a kind boundary that works for you?  “I care about you. You can call me Monday. I’ll be free from 6-7.”  Then be there.

A kind word

Another man texted several friends, describing his desperate loneliness and emotional pain. “I need a friend now. Today. 911” Four hours later he heard from a woman who  invited him to talk.  No one else answered his plea.

Why are we so scared to be real friends? It is easy to mix at social events, work side by side, or even talk about troubles.  When someone needs us to go to them, to reach beyond the usual, why do we hesitate?

We say we do not know what words to use.  Some of the most encouraging statements are uncomplicated. “I’m here.”  “I’m sorry to see you in such pain.”  Quietly sitting with a hurting friend can express nonjudgmental love and acceptance.

Actions are not so very difficult either. Pick up the phone, answer a text, let a friend talk, or tell someone they matter.

Major Depression is a lonely illness.  For more specific ideas on how to help, read articles on this website under the category “How to be an Effective Support.”

No one is to blame for a completed suicide due to not knowing what to say or when to say it. Keep in mind though, that suicide is preventable. A kind word really can save a life.


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.

*Not his real name

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