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Emotional Health/ Kids/Family/ Parenting

Going There — Mental Illness


May is mental illness month, and I couldn’t be more pleased about that. I’ve been wanting to write this post all month–leave it to me to procrastinate until the very end of the month!

Mental illness has become a subject that I have become passionate about.  I am passionate about awareness.  I am ready to join the brave voices already talking about it.

Where does this passion come from?  I myself have fought an anxiety disorder for years, and for way too long– especially in the evangelical community that I identify myself with– it has been something that is not talked about very openly  Until now.

I see a movement.  I see people getting real with others, opening up about pain and sickness in their lives.  I see people finding hope and healing in these conversations that are taking place, and I want to be a part of that.  I have been part of that at some women’s conferences I have spoken at, and these said moments are some of the most meaningful of my whole life.  Women opening up, exposing their struggle or the struggle of their loved ones, finding hope in each others stories, & trading tried and true ways to get through the many obstacles mental illness creates.

It is about time there is more openness on the subject. Here is why, from

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year – that’s one in four adults and one in ten children. People of every race, age, religion or economic status are affected. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all know someone who is living with some form of mental illness.

My passion also comes from watching some of my closest family and friends suffer.  Some in silence. Some publicly. Some sharing with only the closest of friends. Some too young to even know there is a stigma associated with the label of mental illness– quite frankly–these young ones are the bravest and most inspiring.  A young teen, one so dear to my heart, who in a matter-of-fact way says “I have bi-polar, but I’m learning how to live with it.  It does not define me.”  Words of truth from the mouth of babes.

I will get into my own journey with an anxiety disorder in coming posts, but for today, I want to address those of us who are called the Church.

Pastor Rick Warren, who lost his precious son to the disease of depression & suicide, was recently on The View.  I set my DVR to record it, as I was very interested in what he had to say and I know he shares this passion of mine to help the church see we are missing the boat when it comes to caring well for those who suffer with mental illness.  I hung on ever word of his.

Here is the entire segment from ABC.  Pastor Warren and his wife talk about marriage, which really is priceless {grin–you gotta watch it to get that comment} and towards the end he talks about his son’ mental health, and how the evangelical community needs to do a better job at loving and understanding those who are suffering.

Here are some of my favorite things Rick Warren has said:

“There is no shame in diabetes, there is no shame in high blood pressure, but why is it that if our brains stop working, there is supposed to be shame in that?” said Warren, who said the family kept Matthew’s illness a secret from the public not because of shame, but “because it was his own story to tell.”

“There’s no shame when any other organ in your body fails, so why do we feel shame if our brain is broken?”

“If a bird falls and breaks its wing, we don’t say to it,””read your Bible and pray until you get better”” no, we fix its wing”

‘It’s OK. I’m not OK, you’re not OK, but that’s OK because God’s OK.’”

And these heartbreaking words about their son:

“Our hilariously funny, immensely creative, intensely compassionate son struggled to make sense of his life and the mental pain he was experiencing. His anguish was our anguish,” Rick and Kay Warren wrote in a recent Time op-ed. “On April 5, 2013, impulse met opportunity in a tragic way. Our beautiful son ran into the unforgiving wall of mental illness for the last time.”

Mental illness is a complicated matter, but it is a matter that needs to be talked about.  There are too many suffering, especially our young people, with parents at their wits end not knowing what the best decision is for their children.  An estimated 20 percent of U.S. teenagers have some mental-health irregularity, including 10 percent who have some behavior or conduct disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  If there is history of mental illness in both sides of the family, the chances of  children suffering is multiplied and extremely high.  Genetics plays a huge part, as does trauma, which means this subject is not going away, and we must keep talking about it.  

Survey results from the Southern Baptist-affiliated nonprofit Lifeway Research, released in September, found that close to half of evangelical, fundamentalist and born-again Christians believe prayer and Bible study alone can solve mental illness. Among Americans as a whole, about one in three shared that view. Nevertheless, 68 percent of Americans said they believed they would be welcome in church if they were mentally ill.

“It’s just not the case that faith or religious belief will inoculate or immunize a person against mental illness,” said Aaron Kheriaty “We want to convince Christians that psychiatrists, religious leaders and mental health advocates, all of us can work hand in hand.”

I personally suffered way too long without the medication I needed due to well-meaning advice from others–  “Have more faith” “Be obedient to Christ, read the Bible more & pray more” ” “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, goodness, & self-control, submit to the spirit” “No meds unless you absolutely cannot get out of bed (I had anxiety, not depression.  I was always able to get out of bed, but walked around sick.)  “The pharmaceutical companies are corrupt, don’t take meds, they don’t work” –all of these things and more were said to me.  I am so thankful I was able to work out details, think clear enough for myself & along with God’s direction (can’t wait to tell you the story of this) of what medication my body needed to make me able to be who God created me to be.  My true self.

I am eager to write more on this topic in coming posts.

What are your thoughts?  Do you know someone with mental illness? How do you feel the church is doing with those who are suffering with mental illness?