Time for a Nation-wide Conversation

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Time for a Nation-wide Conversation

I remember the phone call, like it was yesterday.  I was standing in the hallway of our rental home three hours from my hometown. My husband was in his first year as a teacher/coach.  I was in my third year of being a wife and Mommy.  The children were napping and Jim was at school.

The call….was from the psychiatrist who was able to diagnose what my Mom had been dealing with.  Finally, the answer to my Mom’s depression and unusual behavior had a name, Bipolar II disorder. Which is when a person suffers with severe depression and on the flip side, times of hypomania. The reason he called was to not only inform me of what Mom’s illness was, but that it was hereditary.

That was in 1986 and I was soon to learn, that not only did I not understand mental illness neither did the rest of my world.  There is a certain stigma which surrounds mental illness.  And it was a number of years, before I got past the stigma and understood the illness.  And perhaps even longer for me to realize that Bipolar wasn’t my Mom, but an illness she was afflicted with.

I could spend week’s blogging on what the next nineteen years were like for my Mom and our family.  But that isn’t the purpose of this post.

The purpose of this post is this.

It. Is. Time.  Now is the time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health.

After the incident in Connecticut on Friday, my mind has been whirling with thoughts about mental illness in this country. I wish I could say that in the last 26 years our nation had advanced in the treatment, education and understanding of mental illnesses.  But. I. Can’t.

The endless conversations this weekend have been on gun control. My personal belief is that instead of gun control it needs to be focused on mental health.

My heart aches when we have incidents such as this school shooting and immediately people want to blame the parents. How many different ways have I heard it said, “If the parents had done this or that, the shooter wouldn’t have killed.”  We need to stop blaming the parents for children’s mental health disorders. When the parent recognizes something is wrong with their children and they want them to get better, we need to help them get the treatment their child needs.

As a caregiver, I can attest that mental illnesses are anything but simple.  And the treatment of them is even harder. Even though we knew the name to my Mom’s illness, it didn’t make the treatment of it easy. Numerous times, I knew Mom needed hospitalization.  But because she hadn’t threatened to kill herself or someone else, she could not be admitted for hospitalization.  So, I prayed.  Held my breath and hoped the episode would pass.

I think about the parents of youth suffering with mental illnesses.  How heart wrenching it has to be!  How many times have they sought treatment for their child but been turned away because the child had not threatened to harm anyone?  Or perhaps they did threaten and by the time they got to the psychiatric unit, had calmed down enough that they couldn’t be admitted.

I have walked through the locked doors, seen the other patients and cried as I left my Mom behind. Only to find out two or three days later that she signed herself out because in her mind she was fine.  I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if it had been one of my children.

I realize through personal experience that not only does our Nation not understand the illnesses, they don’t understand the barriers to treatment for them.  Before our Nation has to grieve the loss of more lives from another school shooting, let’s begin the conversation!  Conversations which will bring about the advancement of treatment for mental illnesses in our country!

By |2012-12-17T00:15:57+00:00December 17th, 2012|Blog, Education Day|2 Comments

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  1. Richard Blevins December 17, 2012 at 8:08 am - Reply

    From severe disorders and clinical depression to learning disorders like ADD and ADHD, mental illness affects millions of children and adults yearly. We spend millions of dollars treating an invisible assailant, that seems to come and go as it pleases. I remember, as a child, watching the ones I loved try medication after medication. They attempted to remove the “triggers” from the home, and even began separating us from each other. None of these desperate attempts at treatment seemed to work. For nearly five years we battled this disease in our household, and never really moved forward in the treatment. It was not until my little brother allowed Jesus Christ to become Lord of his life, that things changed. The severe depression gave way to the joy of the Lord, and his lifelong ADD was curbed by the one who had created him. That was a choice he had to make – we could not do that for him.
    For years now, the medical community has focused its efforts on diagnosing and attempting to treat mental illnesses. “Fear,” for example, has been re-diagnosed over 300 times. Each time a different diagnosis for what the bible calls fear. Fear can cripple the mind and leave a person unable to function. People live bound by this invisible enemy for years while trying conventional and alternative methods of treatment. All the while, God has already given us the answer to the fear that grips us – His love! The love of God drives out fear. If the mind is where we battle Satan, then we need to realize that afflictions of the mind are very spiritual by nature. You can not fight a spiritual affliction very effectively with conventional methods. My brother’s affliction changed when his thoughts changed. The bible tells us that God will keep us in perfect peace if our minds are focused on Him. Once my brother began focusing on the creator and not on the problem, the problems disappeared. In our search for answers, we must begin to realize that the taboo assigned to spiritual treatment has been placed there to keep us away from the truth. If we misdiagnose the cause, then we run the risk of causing more damage than we do help. As long as we continue to diagnose a spiritual problem with conventional methods, then we simply perpetuate the problem.
    Finally, we must learn how to treat what is spiritual in nature as a spiritual affliction. The bible says that we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the words we speak. If that is the truth, and I believe it is, then what I speak out of my mouth determines Satan’s access to me. Satan does come into my life to steal, kill, and destroy, but his only access is through the mind, so my treatment must begin there. As I learn to replace the thoughts that come with the word of God, then I renew my mind. Meditating on and speaking God’s words into my life, then becomes the treatment through which mental diseases are overcome.
    As a minister to children, my heart breaks for those that have suffered such unbelievable loss. I find myself crying for the soul of this generation and asking God for an answer. This generation is under an attack from all sides. Childhood is no longer a safe place to live. From the halls of an abortion clinic to the streets of third world country, children everywhere are being lost. I do believe it is high time to open this dialogue, but I must think that as the church, the body of Christ, we have an obligation to bring the answers found in God’s word to the forefront of the discussion. God has provided us with all things relating to life and godliness; why would we not utilize what He has so graciously given.

    • bgraciesmith December 17, 2012 at 9:45 am - Reply

      Richard,

      Thank you for your comments. My heart breaks with yours. As the Mother to five children and now grandma to three, I shutter to think where our Nation is heading if we don’t turn to God for the answers. I too believe that in our discussions we have to bring God and His promises into the conversation. However, just like physical illnesses, God doesn’t always “heal” mental illnesses.

      My Mother was a believer and in her twenties and thirties she actively served the Lord. Then her illness set in. She prayed, we all prayed for healing. She sought Christian counseling and stood on God’s word. For whatever reason, my Mom’s healing from this illness didn’t come until she passed from this world into the next.

      We as Christians also have to be careful and not come across that we have all the answers to these complicated illnesses. The only ONE who has the answers, yes; is God. But not always is His answers ours. One time a well meaning friend convinced Mom that healing for mental illness comes through not only the word of God, but eating fresh fruits and nuts. So, she took herself off her medicines and the result was not healing. It was months of torment and cycling before her doctors were able to get her “level” again.

      Mom told me the November before she passed in January that like Paul, she looked at her illness as a “thorn in her side.” Even though God had not healed her, she had a good life. God used her illness to foster a love and acceptance for others which compares to very few people I know.

      As I stated in the post, Mental illnesses are not simple. Nor will be the conversations. Even between two strong believers, you and I differ on some levels. Yet, in order to advance the education, understand and treatments of mental illness, we need to work out our differences and let the conversations begin.

      Thank you for stopping by. God bless you and your ministry,
      ~b

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