Understanding Mental Health Issues

Attempting not to overdo the activity and obvious loss many, including myself, feel at the loss of Robin Williams in recent days, I have avoided posting anything here. However, the loss in our community of a well-known musician by suicide this past week made it incumbent on my heart that I share my feelings with you.

I feel strongly that our country and its states, filtering into counties, parishes, cities and towns, are not doing enough to serve those suffering from a variety of mental illnesses.

In my family, my father was a recovering alcoholic by the time I was born and I believe his alcoholism may have been directly tied to depression and a history of loss of family from the time he was a mere four years old. My mother, emotional and verbally abusive to my siblings and me, may herself have been diagnosed as bipolar if the medical community had known then what it knows now. A half-sister suffered depression and attempted suicide more than once. Other family members were alcoholics.

I have been touched by mental illness and often wondered why there was no one to help these precious family members in bigger and better ways.

Saturday morning just past we began our day like always. Breakfast together and our morning devotional from The Upper Room. My husband finished reading and said simply, “Powerful story.” And it was. I want to share it with you here because I believe it underscores a large part of what must happen to make change occur in the lives of those suffering mental health issues:

Growing

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Read Matthew 6:25-34

View the July-August, 2014 Issue

Happy are those who trust in the Lord. . . . They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water.

– Jeremiah 17:7-8 (CEB)

Twenty-five years ago I was transferred to a group home some distance from my family and friends. I had suffered from alcohol dependence and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I greatly needed the assistance of mental health professionals.

Each year, my mother takes me to visit my relatives. On those occasions, I have grown to admire a lovely painting in my aunt’s home. It depicts a wide variety of colorful flowers. The painting has drawn me to another understanding of my life by encouraging me to grow and develop wherever God has placed me, as these magnificent blossoms have grown where they were planted. Jesus reminds us that the wild lilies of the field are not anxious about their role in life; they radiate with God’s purpose by being themselves.

I find satisfaction and great joy in the place where God has planted me. I have not consumed alcohol in over 13 years. I have developed loving relationships in the church I attend. After several changes in treatment, my medication therapy has brought about successful results. I want to be like one of the flowers in my aunt’s painting, planted in this lovely family of mental health residents.

The Author

Howard David Glawson (North Carolina, USA)

Thought for the Day

We can thrive where God has planted us.

Prayer

Dear God, help us to find peace where we are, even in the midst of trauma. Give us the power and grace to overcome mental illness and all obstacles to abundant life. Amen.

Prayer Focus: Mental health patients

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To me it was clear that Howard David Glawson had been blessed in many ways with respect to his mental health issues.

First, he obviously had family and friends who cared so much that they worked diligently to find just the right place to offer care and treatment. After all, Howard has lived in the group home for 25 years now.

Second, Howard himself realized the depth and serious nature of his illness:

 I greatly needed the assistance of mental health professionals.

Third, his mother has made efforts to keep Howard connected to his family by taking him each year to visit relatives. And it was in the home of an aunt he became familiar with a painting which spoke to him. This painting has taken him to a level of understanding his circumstances as in an analogy of “growing where you are planted.” Like the lilies of the field, he found a comfort in knowing he need not be anxious but radiant with God’s purpose for him.

And lastly, Howard has found joy and satisfaction in the garden God has chosen for him. He is alcohol-free for 13 years, attending church regularly, has developed loving relationships there, and has experienced success with medical treatment.

His last sentence will always resonate with me when I struggle with the simple daily frustrations of my life:

 I want to be like one of the flowers in my aunt’s painting, planted in this lovely family of mental health residents.

If we were able to give each of the people suffering from mental illness the love and encouragement that Howard has received, we would be well on our way to eradicating the terrible losses caused by insufficient care and treatment.

I am not so foolish to not understand that it takes money, facilities, physicians and nurses, a willingness on the part of adults who are suffering to accept their situations and the help if available, and not all can be saved.

But there is a place to start, and this we can do:

  • Understand that we are not all mentally balanced equally.
  • Also understand some situations are beyond the control of the person affected.
  • Do not look the other way just because you suspect someone is mentally ill.
  • If you see someone struggling, say a silent pray for help for that person.
  • When an opportunity presents itself to volunteer, do so if you are able.
  • If you know someone personally who needs help and you feel comfortable doing so, talk with that person or suggest they seek help.

These are things we can do. Will you join with me today in making an effort to take one small step into changing the way we look at mental illness.

If you have suicidal thoughts, or have had them in the past, please find a reason to live. Or call theSuicide Prevention Hotline and have someone help you find one. Please do the same for anyone you know who suffers from thoughts of suicide.


Linking up on Monday with:

Kelli Woodford at Unforced Rhythms

and on Wednesday with: 

Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart
Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory

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12 thoughts on “Understanding Mental Health Issues

  1. Thank you for adding more to what needs to be an ongoing conversation about mental health. I’ve seen the damage it can wreak on a family as well, when untreated. It’s worthy of our attention. Blessings to you, Sherrey!

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  2. HI Sherrey! Thank you for your kind visit to my blog today. Your train rides sound so peaceful and fun 🙂
    This is such an important post. I don’t think there is anyone who has not been touched by mental illness. How are we all responding? Sometimes that silent prayer you mentioned could make all the difference…or a smile.
    It’s also time that we all realized that it’s as valid an illness as the flu. It’s not the fault of the person who struggles!
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    • Ceil, I’m so glad you stopped in. Your comments are well received and are filled with such truth. It is indeed not the fault of the person who struggles. Blessings on your week!

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  3. Scratch the surface of any family, and you’ll find a plethora of mental illness, often hidden back in the day… In mine:

    – Great aunt who in the war killed herself and her twin babies, presumably due to what now would be post-natal depression (the “family secret”…)
    – Grandmother who these days would be called “borderline personality disorder” or even “bipolar” – certainly a life-long hypochondriac long before dementia and blindness lent reality to the fear…
    – Father’s sleeping pill addiction
    – Father’s breakdown during divorce
    – MIL’s Alzheimers
    – My eating disorder (A-word)
    – Stepsisters all of the above and multiple suicide attempts
    – Husband’s mental breakdown last year
    – My burgeoning depression…. 😦

    I am not ashamed. It’s life, sadly – and modern life especially….

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  4. A touching story, indeed. Thank you for your action points. I agree that this is a conversation we need to keep having. What an important contribution to Unforced Rhythms this week. Thank you, friend.

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  5. Just like cancer I believe that most of us are touched by mental health issues in some ways. I am so thankful for those like you who are continuing the conversation and, more importantly, the compassion. (Visiting from Jennifer’s blog today)

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