It seems as though as more time passes on, the more often I log in to my Facebook and find yet another post on my news feed written in honor and remembrance of a loved one that has taken their life.
Loved ones lost too soon due to the overlooked, underestimated, all-encompassing power that a mental illness has the potential to hold on our minds. Depression (alone, or in the wake of other mental illnesses) is more and more confused by the uneducated as merely just a feeling or phase, rather than a mental health condition with the need for understanding, attention, and treatment. To my point, it is imperative that society becomes more cognizant of the crisis we are facing, especially among adolescents and young adults, today.
This form of epidemic we are seeing is one that should be completely preventable. Yet more people we know, or have mutual friends with, will continue to suffer from depression, take their lives, and that still may not be enough to bring about the awareness we all need pay careful attention to.
Which leads me to my point about compassion. It is crucial that we understand and practice the importance of being compassionate toward others, whether they happen to be close to us or not. We are all human, we all feel, and we all hurt. Most importantly, we all need to know we are loved. Yes, it may sound a little silly, but this concept is basic and our society’s mental stability depends on it.
To continuously know we are heard, to know we are cared about, and to know we are not alone all have the potential to foster a sense of faith and hope in someone struggling that could quite possibly be a leading reason as to why when we are suffering, we keep holding on. In the past few months I have trained to become certified in Mental Health First Aid in order to work as a volunteer for the New River Valley Community Services Raft Crisis Hotline, located in my college town.
It has been through my time throughout this experience so far that I have been fortunate enough to learn first-hand how one can impact another’s sense of well-being and assurance, while at the same time being a complete stranger. It is through the conversations I have had thus far that have shown me how truly vital a listening ear, a caring heart, and providing a sense of support for another can be to someone in need of just that.
So that the struggling person knows that not only is someone here for them, but here with them. Simply showing unrelenting compassion can dramatically influence the mindset of someone who is drowning mentally, whether you realize it or not.
For those who are contemplating what steps they will take to end their lives or experiencing suicidal ideas, it is as if they suffer from an irrefutable perspective of themselves that they no longer recognize. A perspective built upon the foundation that their life has little value, and is no longer worth fighting for. Although the hardships brought about by having a mental illness hold power in creating such a perspective, some individuals may have never reached the point of attempt and/or completion had they been shown and made aware of the fact that they are being heard, cared about, and accompanied from the beginning.
However, perhaps if we as a society made it more instinctual to act in ways that are more compassionate, more kind, more supportive, more aware, then those we love would have more foreseeable opportunities to find the hope needed in order to take the appropriate steps toward recovery. To be reminded that our lives are valued, cared for, and paid attention to may have the ability to lead one to a sense of worthiness in valuing and caring for oneself that they otherwise would have never found on their own.
Perhaps the strength needed in those struggling to learn to love who they are and to fight for the value of their life can be (even just a little bit) sprouted by simply the way in which we pay attention to and show compassion for them.