By Nancy Virden (c)2022
Stigma is identified by its negative and often judgmental properties. The letters M and A in the acronym are two examples of what to avoid when dealing with someone in a crisis with depression.
M = Matching
We make this mistake when we assume our experience is sufficient to explain like experiences of other people. Phrases such as, “I was depressed once and drank chamomile tea to lift my spirits” is unhelpful at best and often harmful.
Relatability is tentative at best. We are each complex. Our ideas of what is true came through differing channels. For example, Elayne is depressed and needy. You do not know that the only time she received attention as a child was when she was ill. Her issue is not as much a search for sympathy but an empty tank of love. “Take your needs to Jesus” is to her yet another form of “do not bother me”. Perhaps a solution is for a Christian sister to befriend and mentor her.
We cannot judge another by how they react to circumstances. One person who seems emotionally self-controlled may actually be out of touch with their emotions or fearful of emotional expression. Pride as a coping mechanism flaunts itself as superior in character and strength.
Trying to match the familiar to the unfamiliar is a losing endeavor. We each must admit we do not understand completely anyone else’s struggles. Our job is to express mercy.
A = Anger
Jesus spoke kindly and gently to suffering crowds, He answered simple questions. In the case of the ten lepers he healed, he sent them to professionals to validate their recoveries.
If depression or anxiety has someone skipping work, ignoring their family, and breaking promises, show patience, not anger. Encourage, do not criticize. Say, “I am with you” instead of “Why aren’t you…?” Acknowledge his every step forward no matter how small.
Feeling like a burden is common to those with major depression. Anger and reprimand can build on those thoughts of undeservedness, unworthiness, and hopelessness. An overwhelming sense of guilt may be a reason this person is not acting like himself. Do not add to that.
Offer the best medicine by speaking kindly.
Now that this 3-part series has shown you some of the harm that stigma is, look at a second acronym. L.O.V.E . Listen, Observe, Validate, and Encourage.
This is what you want from others when you are in any kind of pain. You want empathy, prayers, and sincere noncritical acceptance. As Jesus said, “Do for others what you want them to do for you.”
Today’s Helpful Word
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
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.
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