Mental Health + Empathy vs Sympathy

Last night I had the opportunity to attend Stake Conference. In my church, we are organized into groups based on location. You attend Sunday meetings with your local group called a ward. Once a year, every ward in an area (called a stake) gathers together for a meeting called Stake Conference. This year the evening session of our Stake Conference focused on awareness for those suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental illness. It. Was. Amazing.

Two members of our stake (one of them my mother in law) shared their experiences. They had the courage to stand up in front of so many friends and strangers and be vulnerable. All so that others would know they aren’t alone. Hearing their stories was so powerful. The spirit resided in that meeting, and I felt it strongly.

Our Personal Gethsemane

One speaker talked about Christ in Gethsemane. How he took his disciples with him, but they fell asleep and he suffered alone in the garden. He suffered alone on the cross. If there is anyone who understands the loneliness of depression, it is our Savior Jesus Christ.

Empathy vs Sympathy

A counselor in the Stake Presidency talked about the difference between empathy and sympathy, and that really struck me. I always think of myself as more empathetic, but it made me realize that there are times when I’m sympathetic instead. Watch this video. Are you the giraffe or the bear? I’m the giraffe more times than I’d like to admit…

He also shared a quote by Seth Adam Smith that really resonated with me:

“Depression thrives in secrecy and shrinks in empathy.” Seth Adam Smith

Be Vulnerable.

Sharing those feelings that are so painful and so personal can be extremely difficult, especially when you’re confiding in someone who has never experienced such feelings. People can say some pretty insensitive things, but I believe that they mean well. They just don’t always know how to respond, and may need a little coaching in empathy. They want to help. They want to fix it, but don’t understand that there’s no simple fix.

I believe that so much goodness can come from sharing our experiences – especially the hard ones. When we have the courage to share our stories and experiences, we may help ourselves out of isolation. And you never know who might be touched, or even saved, by hearing YOUR story.

You matter. You make a difference. We’re in this together ❤

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