By Nancy Virden (c)2022
I am a Christian mental health advocate with a strong desire to see stigma replaced with practical and effective love. Stigma is ideas believed as facts without factual basis, and it cripples our society. However, let’s be fair. How are you to know what to say or do when someone has depression and is in a mental crisis? How are you to know what not to say or do?
The five letters of the word STIGMA form a helpful acronym for what not to do. Today’s letters are S and T.
S = Silence
I cannot count how many times I have heard “they need their space” used to explain one’s silence and avoidance when a friend or family member needs support. It may be easier to keep at a distance when a person with depression does not respond to or initiate contact. However, the absence of acceptance and validation can feel cold and apathetic, adding to a sense of worthlessness and desperation. Lack of helpful support is likely the number one complaint among those who experience major depression.
Does anyone in pain need space or silence? It is at those times our need for reassurance and active compassion is most acute.
Be physically present through visits and consistent communication. Talk about baseball or knitting, it does not matter. Tell the one with depression they are loved by a God whose love never fails. Say, “I am glad you are alive. You are needed and not forgotten.”
If you are concerned for a person’s safety, ask, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” This will not bring up the idea of suicide. Instead, it shows courageous compassion. Invite them to call the new National Lifeline at 988. Be prepared and willing to call 911 if someone is acting dangerously.
We cannot understand the complexities of another person’s filters through which our words and good intentions must run. For example, Sam has severe social anxiety. He grew up observing coldness between his parents. This lack of warmth trickled down to his siblings and him. As an adult, the idea of God as a loving Father is foreign. He understands the words, yet his filters prevent him from experiencing the fullness of God’s personal investment in his life.
Due to theorizing, it may seem easy to observe Sam and slip into familiar remarks such as “Just walk with God and you will have no more fear.” Leave the words, “Just” or “only” out of the conversation because simple solutions suggest that the person in pain is refusing to cooperate. It is dismissive, leaving people feeling empty. Each of us has to admit we may not fully know what we are talking about.
Reminding people that God deeply desires a close relationship with them regardless of their pain, is always appropriate. A potential solution for Sam looks less like talking and more like a long-term, safe relationship with a fellow Christian and a welcoming church.
Today’s Helpful Word
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, 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!
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: Nancy is not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speaks only from personal experience and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
HOLY BIBLE, NEW LIVING TRANSLATION, COPYRIGHT © 1996, 2004, 2015 BY TYNDALE HOUSE FOUNDATION. USED BY PERMISSION OF TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC., CAROL STREAM, ILLINOIS 60188, PER BIBLE GATEWAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. RETRIEVED FROM HTTPS://WWW.BIBLEGATEWAY.COM/