Category Archive: Mental Illness

Maintaining Mental Health

After reading last week’s blog, one of my close friends commented about her husband’s “hellish experience” with benzodiazepine withdrawal. Her caution is wise; using drugs to address mental illness is a personal decision between the individual and his/her healthcare provider, one that needs to be considered carefully and prayerfully for potential addiction, withdrawal challenges, or further impacts on a person’s state of mind.

Healthy Life

Healthy Life

In a seminar last weekend, Dr. Jeremiah Johnston shared ten tips for maintaining mental health. While there are situations where more direct intervention or care are required, these seem like good guidelines for normal life situations and speak to me. Here is the list.

  1.  Say “no” more often. This is hard for me. A pleaser by nature, I want to say yes to those I love. But my schedule fills up so fast that I lack time to be still, to rest, to enjoy the day. I said “no” to two things this week. It felt good, freeing.
  2. Take frequent, short sabbaticals. Jesus said “Come apart and rest awhile.” This doesn’t have to be a month, a week, even days. Don and I sometimes go out for a relaxed breakfast on the beach. That brief time of “coming apart” refreshes us in body and spirit.
  3. Develop and sustain peer support. Last summer four college girlfriends and I spent a couple of days together after not being all together for forty-three years. What a joy! My “Fab Friday” Bible study gals are a tremendous support; and my close girlfriends have walked with me through joy and sorrow. I am grateful for each of them.
  4. Monitor the balance between work and personal life. This is a tough one for me. Always has been. Still working on it even though I’m retired.
  5. Establish and adjust priorities based on a periodic review of your values. What needless things are taking up real estate in my mind and heart?
  6. Proof your thoughts against scripture. The apostle Paul challenges us to “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8.
  7. Regularly assess your spiritual fitness. Am I spending time letting God’s word infuse my mind and heart? Am I allowing God to change me through what I read and hear?
  8. Never make a decision when tired or discouraged. I’ve learned this one. When I’m really down, my first corrective is generally rest.
  9. Prioritize your physical health. Am I eating healthy? Am I getting some exercise to help my body balance and work out stress?
  10. Watch where you park your mind. This ties in with #6 above. Romans 12:1-2 tells me that renewing my mind comes from being changed from the inside out.

Great list. I plan to review it periodically.

Is there one of these that is the most challenging for you? What can you do do address that issue?

Mental Illness: Opening Communication, Removing Stigma

Hopeless

Hopeless

  • Among 15-29-year olds, suicide is the second highest cause of death in the United States.
  • Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day.
  • A few years ago, fifteen seniors died of completed suicide daily.

Tragic statistics which, according to Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, founder of Christian Thinkers Society (christianthinkers.com), have led the World Health Organization to term mental health and suicide as epidemic. Johnston was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s first annual “Community Gathering for Mental Health” at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California.

Happy Face Mask

Happy Face Mask

One in four Americans suffers from some sort of mental illness, so it touches us all, personally or with a family member or close friend. And this disease carries with it both isolation (people are afraid to be open about mental illness); and stigma (we often don’t know how to respond to someone dealing with mental illness, so ignore them. “That’s someone else’s job”). Some of us can recall times of shock when we learned of someone we knew (or knew of, like Robin Williams) taking his or her own life, a life that appeared full. The happy mask was effective; have we, church and society contributed to people feeling the necessity to wear it?

So how can we as the faith community help those who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, or other mental illness?

  1. Recognize that every family struggles. Almost everyone is touched either personally or within their family by mental illness in some form. We are all broken. As we open the conversation we also begin to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.
  2. Love rather than judge and condemn. Two mothers talked about their grief when their sons took their own lives; and how hard it was to share their own pain because no one understood what they were going through.
  3. Build support groups in the church for ALL ages. Depression is starting younger and younger. Watch for signs and address them early, through appropriate therapeutic and medical interventions, as well as community.
  4. Encourage the mentally ill in our faith communities to get involved, getting off the sidelines. A TLC staff member shared about her panic attacks, and the process of working through those with a competent Christian counselor. She is now contributing significantly to the church family. And a young man who suffers from schizophrenia has remained out of the hospital for twelve years now and works with the Santa Cruz chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).Depression Illness not choice

Johnston says we have a lot to learn from those who have suffered from and are dealing with mental illness. Former slave trader John Newton, who came to know Christ and wrote the song “Amazing Grace,” co-wrote many hymns with William Cooper. Cooper suffered with lifelong, chronic depression. Out of his pain, Cooper was able to dig deep into the grace of God and pass that along through the hymns he wrote.

I’ve dealt with depression at a couple of points in my life, and am grateful for wise counseling, a supportive family and friends, and a small daily pill. Why is it so hard to talk about this, to admit that I am broken, that I need help from God and others? I am grateful for a church that is focused on opening conversations, removing stigmas, and partnering with others who can provide support and help for those in need. Johnston said Jesus’ ministry focused on removing barriers to belief. I love that.

What do you think makes it so hard to be open about our own brokenness? I’d love to engage on this question.