DEAR ABBY: I recently discovered that a mentally disabled woman who attends our church has become suicidal. She's a warm, friendly, bright individual whose company I thoroughly enjoyed. I have even been a visitor in her home.
The realization that she has considered taking her own life has me so upset that I find myself wanting to avoid her. This doesn't make me feel very good about myself, because she has few friends and waits for my greeting each Sunday. My sensitivity is defeating my good intentions of trying to welcome her in a spirit of love and acceptance.
How do I keep from being just another Judas to complicate her already difficult life? I believe in the power of love to heal, but have I overestimated my own spiritual strength to deal with this? I feel trapped by my own good intentions.
How do I handle this? Please help me. -- WELL-MEANING CHURCHGOER, DENVER
DEAR WELL-MEANING: Why are you running away? Unless the woman confided her suicidal thoughts to you, it may not be true. Even if it is true, her depression is not contagious. There is no reason to stop being friendly with her at church. It may be one of the few positive things she has going in her life.
"Healing her" is not your responsibility. While I, too, believe in the power of love to create positive change, your love cannot possibly cure her chronic depression. Medical intervention is required for that.
The most supportive thing you can do for that dear woman would be to greet her lovingly when you see her, tell your clergyperson what you have discovered, and see to it that she seeks medical and psychological attention if she is, indeed, suicidal.