Mental health is no light-hearted subject. Severe depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal tendencies have become a worldwide epidemic. And our nation is not immune: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, with one American dying by suicide every 13 minutes.
But while the pain and agony of mental health continues to expand its reach among individuals around the world, it seems that understanding and compassion for this issue has continued to fall short. Mental health issues are being downplayed as though they are nothing but a cold or a rash in need of some simplistic over-the-counter medication. Sufferers of mental health problems are told "you're fine" and to "just get over it."
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It’s not our place to diagnose the feelings of those who are broken and heavy-hearted. Our only job is to be there during their time of need, offer them comfort not criticism and lend them a helping hand of support.
Encountering someone who deals with mental health issues is a lot more common than one might think, seeing as nearly one in five American adults — 43.7 million — experiences mental illness every year. If that seems overwhelming, consider:
● One in 10 Americans is affected by depression.
● More than 80 percent of people who are clinically depressed are not receiving treatment.
● The number of people diagnosed with depression increases by about 20 percent every year.
● An estimated 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
● In 2013, 41,149 suicides were reported in the United States, which was the highest rate of suicide since 1987.
How we respond to those individuals can truly be the difference between life and death, and the way we interact with someone who struggles with mental health issues must be taken with extreme caution and empathy.
We must not lower our understanding of the severity of depression and mental health issues to “just feeling bad” or “having a bad few months.” This is an issue rooted deep within the heart and mind of those affected. We must come to the aid of those who are hurting and in pain and truly value the sanctity of life.
From my experience, here are 10 ways to help protect people from suicide:
1. Listen to their cries.
2. Stop telling them "You're fine."
3. Take every call for help seriously.
4. Be a place of safety and comfort.
5. Let them know it's OK to not be OK.
6. Help them find a comfortable place for counseling and support.
7. Don't discourage them from medication because of your personal preference.
8. Remind them of their value, worth and God-given purpose.
9. Be a scratching post, a person they can vent to.
10. Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.
My wife and I have met with and counseled dozens of young people over the last year, all sharing with us the brutal battle that is taking place within their souls. Suicide attempts, PTSD, cutting, depression and anxiety are just the beginning of what these were facing.
We need the church to step up in it’s efforts to be more vocal regarding mental illness. Whether through a sermon series, free resources, creating non-profits or even a cultivating a designated year-long ministry, the church should be on the front lines of this battle. People need a safe place where they can be honest and transparent with what they are going through.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety or has even thought of suicide, please give them the resources below and do not wait another minute:
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