Over the past couple of years, at least six of my good friends have told me that there were periods where they were severely depressed.
This caught me by surprise, especially in the case of one of my friends, who had always been a cheerful person, so I found it hard to imagine she could be depressed and even feel suicidal.
More recently, I received a mail from a reader of my column (in print) who said he has been struggling with depression and feeling suicidal.
He had been prescribed some medicines by a doctor, but he said the medication was not of much help. He asked me if I knew any good psychologists that could help him.
He told me he was from a small town and so he was also extremely concerned about what people may think if they find out he was consulting a psychologist.
Reading his mail made me stop and wonder that sometimes we can have absolutely no clue about the kind of struggles people are going through, even if they happen to be close friends or family and even if they seem perfectly fine.
I believe this is as good a reason as any to treat everyone with kindness. (For the people who treat you unkindly, give them the benefit of the doubt.)
It’s a lot easier to be nice to everyone you encounter if you stop for a moment and consider that they may be going through a tough time emotionally, even if it may not seem so on the surface.
I know looking back at my own life that the times I behaved the most poorly with people around me were the times when I felt miserable inside.
Whether we may realise it or not, our words and actions do matter and can make a difference in people’s lives as this true story demonstrates.
Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder.
Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped carry part of the burden.
As they walked, Mark discovered the boy's name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball and history, and that he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.
They arrived at Bill's home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home.
They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years.
Finally, the long-awaited senior year came and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. "Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?" asked Bill.
"You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn't want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow.
So you see, Mark, when you picked up those books that day, you did a lot more, you saved my life."
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**The story mentioned in the post was originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul by John W. Schlatter**
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