“Happiness is a choice,” is a statement that gives many people hope and helps them see the good things that life has to offer. But this statement does not ring true for everyone. Some people cannot simply “choose to be happy” because of emotional disorders or mental illness. For them, sometimes happiness is not a choice that they can make.

These illnesses and disorders are very real. Some are slight and some are severe. But regardless of severity, people’s lives are stricken by it. With all the medical help available, some cases are not curable. In underdeveloped areas in the world, some of these cases are not even treated due to lack of resources and knowledge. What then can we do when happiness ceases to be a choice for them?

Choose our words carefully

When talking to these people, words must be carefully chosen. Even with the best intentions at heart, words like “happiness is a choice,” or “it will soon pass,” or “there are better days ahead,” may not sound as positive as we intend them to sound. If they want to talk about their struggles, let them be the ones to initiate it. Sometimes, they have had enough of talking about their struggles and have heard enough positive advice and coping mechanisms. So talk about something that interests them, such as movies, books, sports, or architecture, etc. This kind of conversation will help pull their minds away from their mental or emotional battles even just for a little while.

Do not judge

The severity of emotional disorders and mental illnesses vary. Some people, through the help of healthcare professionals, family, and friends, combined with personal willpower, get healed. Because of this, some may think that getting through this kind of trial is all about willpower and positive thinking, and that people just need to get over it. But it is not as simple as that. These disorders and illnesses are as serious as cancer or kidney failure. In fact, these can threaten life itself. So we must not judge those people going through this trial because we never know how broken they are.

Be kind and compassionate

Kindness and compassion can go a long way for those who are suffering with emotional disorders and mental illness. There might be things that they do that might not seem acceptable or make us feel a little uncomfortable. But they are already going through a lot more discomfort and difficult circumstances, and the last thing they need is a frown or disgraceful comment from anyone.

Share the source of our happiness with them

We certainly cannot choose happiness for them but we can share the source of our happiness. The light and joy that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings can be like a balm of Gilead to heal broken minds and broken hearts. Sharing the gospel with them, particularly the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, may provide sparks of hope and joy in their lives.

Let us be like the Savior

Jesus Christ, during his mortal ministry, never turned his back on someone who needed healing, encouragement and love. We may not be able to heal like He did, but we can, to the best of our ability, provide help, sensitivity, and the light of hope for those who struggle.