DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you or someone you love is in a crisis, please feel free to call -1-800-273-8255 (the Lifeline). Someone there can give you the help that is needed. Also, triggers for mentions of suicide.
In the past few days, many of you have heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It has been confirmed by various sources that they died by suicide. However, they are not the only ones who have struggled with depression and feelings of hopelessness in their lives. In fact, suicide rates in the U.S have gone up 30% since 1999, and 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016. (1). In fact, many people I know, myself included, have struggled with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. However, I found hope in my life in God and in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles. I have also found that there are many people around us that need hope, and some –even motivation to live! The good news is that, we can help them find hope in their lives and maybe even save some lives!
Here is what I found from my own life experiences that have helped others (and me) find hope in our lives:
One of the most effective ways I found that is effective in helping those who are hurting find hope in their lives again is to speak encouragement into their lives. One way to do this is to offer hope-filled words to those who are hurting or stressed. We can offer just the right words for the person’s situation. For instance, when my manager Chris* (*=not his real name) was stressed, I gave him a note that had a Bible verse about rest for the weary soul. I think it was Matthew 28:20 (KJV), which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He really seemed to appreciate the note. Also, when I was upset and felt despairing of life, my friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) spoke encouraging words into my life as well. Though I don’t remember exactly what she said, I do remember that after she talked to me, I felt much better and more determined than ever to better my life. When we lack this encouragement, we will not have as much motivation to persevere in our lives, and can even become cynical and bitter of the people and the world around us. I remember when I felt discouraged and felt that no one was there to emotionally support me, that I became paranoid of the world around me and felt unmotivated and ready to give up on life.
Another way we can speak encouragement into others’ lives is to give praise to people when they do something good. Don’t do this just to flatter them or to manipulate them. This will only serve to make them bitter and cynical in the future, because your motivations will eventually be found out! However, when you genuinely praise and appreciate someone for the good they do, you create a spark in their heart and their eyes often light up. When my co-worker *Ted got complimented by a customer, I knew he genuinely appreciated the gesture because of how excited and happy his voice was when he related the story of how the customer said that he should be rewarded for his good customer service to them. When I told several of my managers several months ago how much the opportunity they gave me to be employed full-time there meant to me, they felt genuinely appreciated and loved in a way most of them never have been before. When people lack this type of encouragement in their lives, they feel nothing they do is ever good enough, so they eventually stop giving their best efforts. They feel like their hard work is done for naught. If someone both lacks this encouragement and is constantly being belittled and criticized, he or she can spiral into a deep, dark depression. This lack of encouragement can even lead him or her to self-injure or, worse yet, commit suicide.
Another way we can offer hope to those who are hurting is to offer them practical helps. If the person that is hurting emotionally is also sick or bed bound, just offering to spend quality time with them will mean a lot. Also, if possible or necessary, help them with basic household chores to let them know that they are not alone and to help their home to be kept up. Of course, also speak encouraging words into their lives. Let them know that you value them and that they are loved. Let them know that they are not alone, even if it seems that way to them.
If the person is hurting because he or she is stressed and/or anxious, we can offer hope by removing them, if possible, away from the stressful situation. For instance, if a family member is making a person stressed, suggest they spend some time away from them, whether it is at another location or even just in separate rooms of the house, until they are ready to deal with the source of the stress again. Also, we can offer to be there for them in the stress. Your presence should help them feel less alone in their fears and stresses. You can also offer to pray for them, if they are religious. We can also be an outlet for them to be able to vent and talk about their stress and fears. When you want to be an outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. 1) Don’t judge them. Judging someone will only make their stress and anxiety worse, and won’t help the situation at all. Moreover, they will, most likely, shut down immediately. 2) Also, listen attentively to their concerns. This will show that you care about them. 3) Don’t offer to “fix” things (i.e give unsolicited advice). Sometimes, all people want is for you to listen and affirm them. 4) Affirm who they are as a person. This does not mean you have to affirm their behaviors, but you do need to let them know that there is hope for them and that you value them.
One final way we can offer hope to the hurting is through our own example, mainly having a joy-filled, eternal perspective on life. By focusing on our legacy and being motivated on something that will last a long time, you can inspire others to live hope-filled lives as well. Don’t focus on things that won’t last, such as money, material things, fame, or outer appearances. However, focus more on things that will last forever—such as God (if you are religious), the legacy you leave to the next generation, your relationships with others, and who you are inside. By focusing on things that will impact your legacy to the next generations, rather than just things that will be gone when you die, it will give you a bigger perspective on life and will give you more motivation and hope for the future. We can then teach this principle to others, giving them hope as well, especially when they are looking for it themselves.
When we help others find hope through our encouraging words, through coming alongside them and helping them in more practical ways, and by inspiring others through our hope-filled, larger perspective on life, we can help heal a broken world. There is always hope when you are alive, and you can make a positive difference in others’ lives by how we live every day.
Source: 1) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (June 7, 2018). Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html.