May is Mental Health Month, so it seems fitting to focus on that this week. There is still such a stigma associated with mental illness. People hesitate to talk about their struggles with mental health issues for a variety of reasons. Maybe they don't want to seem weak. Perhaps they are embarrassed to admit that they see a counselor or need to take medicine for their symptoms. We need to remove the stigma so that people get the help they need and live happier, more fulfilling lives in spite of a mental health diagnosis.
This week our courthouse held a special event to let people find out about local providers of resources for mental health. Gary and I were privileged to be included and provided information about Fresh Hope - a Christian support group that will be starting in Allison in September. (There is also a group in Hampton that will be starting in June.) Fresh Hope is a peer led support group for those who have been diagnosed with a mental health issue and for their loved ones. Most weeks there is a large group meeting and then the group divides so that those with a diagnosis can discuss the topic and those who are loved ones can discuss the topic and support each other. What's great about Fresh Hope is that it works alongside the medical community and encourages people to keep seeing their doctor and/or counselor and to keep taking their meds so that they can get well and stay well. We're excited about getting this group started and pray that it will touch many lives.
As we've talked with people in Allison and other nearby communities, we've realized that most people have someone in their life that has had a mental health diagnosis. At the event on Thursday, Joan Becker was there to sell and sign copies of her new book "Sentenced to Life." Her book tells the story of her son, Mark Becker, who shot and killed Coach Ed Thomas in Parkersburg in 2009. Mark suffered from paranoid schizophrenia at the time and is now serving a life sentence in prison. Hopefully, Joan's book will help people recognize the signs of mental illness in a loved one and will prompt them to get the help they need before something tragic happens.
We don't like to talk about mental illness, but by being more open about it we can encourage others to get help and not just suffer in silence with their symptoms.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)
Do you struggle with mental illness or know someone who does? How can focusing on God as you work with doctors and counselors help you to get to a healthier place emotionally?
A few resources:
www.freshhope.us - Fresh Hope
mentalhealthandthechurch.com - Rick Warren's
www.afsp.org - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
www.nami.org - National Alliance on Mental Illness