It's Mental Illness Awareness Week so I'm just going to call out the issue and give it the attention it needs. Mental illness is not something that can be treated with willpower or positive thinking alone. It must be confronted. The struggle must be addressed with the individual and professionals that know what they are doing. Being stuck in our minds is a dangerous place to be and those of us who struggle need to know that a little help navigating our way through it is a good thing. We must not let the judgement of people who don't know stop us from getting the help we need.
First of all, a shout out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for the work they are doing. I love that they've got a page specifically for advising college students on how to address mental health issues. It is not an easy thing to work on when everything is about having it all together, i.e. grades, social life and future aspirations. I had no idea that I struggled in college with my mental health until I went back for grad school and started to confront my mental health and addiction head on. But I had to go away to get help and a lot of schools don't support offsite treatment. Mental health is not an easy issue to tackle so kudos to any student and/or leader that is wiling to do so. It's worth it. College kids are under a lot of pressure and need this to be one of their top priorities in college. I found a great article last night on the issue of the mental health crisis on college campuses. Click here to read.
Speaking of students, today also happens to be National Child Health Day, as recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services. Why is this important? Because children need attention for their mental health. Their minds are just as much a part of them that needs to be healthy as their bodies. Many people don't address their mental health until the adult years when it becomes too much to bear, or they hit a bottom with an addiction of life circumstance. What we need to do is show kids that it's okay if your mind doesn't feel like it's working right and more importantly, recognize that if they've got other issues with their health, i.e. weight - that maybe there is something way more to it than what you see. Also today kids go through so much - trauma is very present in their lives sadly. Whether it's something at home like broken families, death of a loved one, or abuse or at school like bullying - there are many things that can traumatize a kid. The sooner we throw the mental health into the mix, the better off we'll be. Believe me, if I had realized when I was trying to get to the bottom of obesity working at Health and Human Services for the Secretary, that mental health played such a huge factor in the whole picture I would have focused more on that, than how we're addressing obesity. Obesity - inside job - including mental and emotional health.
Finally I give much kudos to Pastor Rick Warren, his wife Kay and Saddleback Church for hosting the "Gathering on Mental Health and the Church" this week from October 7-9th. I'm hoping to catch the free live webcast on the 8th at 8:30 am PST. They are truly using the tragic loss of their child to suicide to change the landscape on how we address mental health in the church. That is powerful. In no way was their tragedy a good thing, but they are letting God use it for good and that is a good thing. (Speaking of powerful - today was supposed to be a post on the Pope (lol). It is done but this seemed to be more crucial timing for today/week. Check back tomorrow.)
Mental health is an issue SO unaddressed in our society, it's sad. Many people think, "Get over it," simply because they can't see your struggle on the outside. In a way, it's much like obesity. People say, "Just don't eat it," not realizing how much goes on the inside that leads them to make those food choices. Those of us that have to treat our mental health - willingly I might add (big difference from those who don't), know that it's not easy and probably takes more work than anything we've had to do in our lives. But if you address it - you know it's worth the work.
More importantly, I can say the single thing that has transformed my mental health is the power of God in my life. He has come into my heart and through the process of spiritual transformation - began to heal my soul. The Bible says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." It is the Word that give me that renewal. Addressing my mental health, treating it, and maintaining it are a part of my life today. Walking the road of recovery from addiction is how I walk towards God. It keeps me going. It's where he meets me every day in my willingness. It's where my relationship with Him begins, because he is the one who has the power to renew my mind. The people that have come into my life to help me professionally and relationally have been absolute gifts, and reminders that God wants what is best for me.
Mental Illness must be taken just as seriously as physical illness. It doesn't matter that we can't see it. What we must not do is judge it when we see it. For none of us know the struggles that someone goes through inside their mind. I pray for all of those who are on the road to recovery from mental illness and all those still suffering in resistance or lack of knowledge, to know that there is hope. May we all find a way to look towards the light.
P.S. For those college kids who will be connecting with me on Friday, this is what we're talking about!!
Have a great week you all. Check back for the pope blog and a message on Wednesday about why it's okay to feel our feelings!!!