I felt ashamed. There was so much to do last night, and there was no time to waste. I didn’t have time to run out of gas. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I keep going? Then the epiphany: there is nothing wrong with a car that runs out of gas. The problem is being out of gas.
In the last four months, one significant and concerning trend I’ve noticed in social media conversations among ministry leaders has been the uptick in the need for suicide information. Reducing mental illness stigma and prevention are the techniques with the most impact. Here are some other approaches that may help.
No one wants to think of themselves or their family as dysfunctional. And the mental image associated with the term special needs most definitely does not fit. Special needs seems like a suit that was tailored for someone else. But there are no other health conditions for which there are such lengthy delays in diagnosis and treatment solely because of denial. Ditching the camouflage that covers your minimized mental illness might be the best wardrobe decision you ever make.
Whenever a group or congregation is talking about mental illness, there is a tendency to want to help the helpless. We are the powerful ones who can make a difference. As a result of my years of counseling, I saw myself as weak. But over the last year or so, the language I use about my ability has changed. I am no longer weak. I am resilient, remarkably resilient.
When I think about the scripture that exhorts Christ-followers to number our days correctly, I kind of get the meaning backwards. I think about things from a natural human perspective, when what I really need is God’s perspective. The verse isn’t so much about the volume of what I accomplish, but the quality and the purposefulness of what I do. It’s also what I let ministry do to change me. Without anyone reminding me, do I actually see the personal dignity of every person?
Many churches are at a place of that first talk with a pastor, where a concerned layperson might discuss whether churches should be worried about mental health. The American Psychiatric Association has created a guide is to equip faith community leaders to help with a mental health need, because “faith community leaders are gatekeepers or ‘first responders’ when individuals and families face mental health or substance use problems.”
God is the master director and storyteller. The most important story, of how He works with humanity and how He came to rescue humanity as fully God and fully human is of course the Big Story. But the Big Story is full of trillions of lesser stories. And I’m convinced the lesser stories mostly revolve around God breaking through the illusions we have in our lives.