Mental Health

I’ve never much liked awareness weeks, or special days for this or that, for the simple reason that I think they often end up being token gestures. We remember X on this day and forget about it for the remaining 364 days of the year. I have therefore fought shy of Mental Health Awareness Week, but so many of the requests for prayer that we receive via our email prayerline have touched on mental health recently that I have been forced to rethink my attitude.

Mental health is something that affects us all, every day of the year, but we still seem to have complicated, and sometimes quite negative, feelings about it. Anyone who is not ‘normal’ — whatever we mean by that — who suffers from stress/anxiety/depression/bipolar/schizophrenia or any one of a thousand other conditions, is an object of pity and/or fear. Objectification is a terrible thing to do to another human being. It makes them ‘other,’ and not in a very kind or respectful way. I hope readers of this blog are generous in their support of mental health charities. I hope they are generous with their prayer. Most of all, however, I hope they are welcoming and accepting of friends and family who struggle with mental health difficulties, and supportive of those closest to them, who often struggle equally. No one tells a cancer patient to ‘snap out of it’ or runs from them in fear. Sadly, that is not the experience of many who suffer from mental illnesses. We may not think we can make much of a difference, but we can at least try, can’t we?

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7 thoughts on “Mental Health”

  1. Thank you for this timely reminder of how people with mental health issues can be objectified and somehow treated as it their problems might be self inflicted and curable by a tonic or ‘pulling themselves together’.

    Coming from a family which has inherent mental health issues. A father suffering from PTSD following hi WW2 experiences, which he was reluctant to talk about, but which came out in terrible fits of anger and sadly, violence towards us, his children. A mother described in a social service report recovered from Cabrini into my childhood in care, as having extensive mental health issues, and my own experience of deep depression many years ago now, but which continues in memory of the time in my life, where I had no self-worth, where I couldn’t see anything but darkness, and no conception of God’s presence.

    This make me very much aware of how I and my parents were treated by a system which either ignored the problem, labeled the person involved as ‘an angry man’ or just writing them off as worthless, and how, even today, people receive much the same treatment at the hands of people in general, sometimes from their employers or work colleagues and at times the services that are supposed to help them.

    The scandal is that in a time of increasing need, mental health services have been cut, reduced or compromised to contact points in a community, inpatient beds hundreds of miles away from home and family and where an increasingly long wait for talking therapy, which in Kent can be as long as 50 weeks??

    The government at last seems to be waking up to the issues, but all we’re getting is sound bites, electoral promises, but with no sign of the actual commitment of resources to improve the services across the whole nation in such a way that people can access such services at the time and point of need without undue delay. Being a cynic where governments have promised the earth in the past I take the view that instead of funding NHS services which are subject to the whim of budget cuts, they should directly fund some of the excellent charities working in this field which are starved of resources, but who can offer services, in a timely way, locally and using innovative mechanisms to help those most in need, and also to educate the rest of us on how we can support those with ongoing mental health issues.

    I am all too aware that the ‘black dog’ of depression might have gone away for now, but can return quickly if something occurs that sparks a memory or trauma long thought overcome afresh. So I am very protective of my own mental health, and my spouse who has loved and supported me in this in the past remains vigilant as well.
    That is the care and love (and prayer) needed by all who are suffering – shame on us that we don’t provide it.

  2. Good morning, I don’t know whether your readers have ever read the book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. by Victor Frankl, it’s a wonderful book and a must for student Counsellors/Psychotherapists.

    We sometimes forget that our Lord was Jewish, which is why I often read Rabbi Sac’s blog. Of course he does not recognize our Lord as the Messiah, but his blog gives me great insight into Jewish thought.

    Rabbi Sack’s twitter blog on 6.Oct ‘Ha’azinu (5774) The Leader’s Call to Responsibility’ is wonderful, though keeping in mind our elder brothers and sister of Judaism believe differently to us, so adjustments must be made.

    The blog mentions Victor Frankl and Aaron T. Beck, the co-founder of cognitive behavioural therapy.

  3. Thank you Sister Catherine. I told you yesterday that I use a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, but I also suffer from clinical depression, and am on medication for it. I know all too well what so many with mental illness go through, as I am often treated like a second class citizen anyway because of my wheelchair, and to have it doubled simply because I suffer from a mental illness as well is very disheartening.

  4. Looking at mental health from the parental/carer aspect, it is sometimes difficult to deal with years of daily verbal and physical abuse without feelings of desperation, which in turn fill me with guilt.

  5. About trying to make a difference: The world news is dire , we can pray for those situations and try to make a difference in the small part of the world we inhabit. Thank you for the reminder. When depressed I was so ashamed, thinking that Christians shouldn’t be. I know better now.

  6. Thank you for all your comments. I’m well aware that many readers of this blog live with difficult and demanding situations, and that many struggle with imperfect health, either as individuals or as carers. You know that you are all held in prayer by the community, day after day. I hope that knowledge may be of some comfort during the dark times.

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