I was reading a Forbes article today, which discussed the movement in awareness, care, value, access, and innovation in the mental health arena. It mentioned the significance of celebrities putting a spotlight on these issues, and the impact of their verbal presence.
In my life, the surrender of each outspoken famous face has been a comfort and inspiration.
“When I was in my room and not wanting to talk to anybody for a number of days and not wanting to be alive, I wanted to see what other roads I could take to see if there was help… I know it’s something that changed and saved my life and allowed me to be able to be where I am today, enjoying the platform of talking about something that’s so important.” Ryan Phelps, Olympic Gold Medalist
I chose to bring light to mental health as a believer years ago. I can close my eyes and remember the first time I sat in Sunday school and bravely shared my battle with bipolar depression as a prayer request; or the day I made a decision to start a local support group for those in the faith community dealing with mental health issues. Unfortunately, I remember some of the looks I received, or the way people pulled away from me when I was in my greatest time of need. In the 20 years since, I have seen growth, acceptance, inclusion, and love. Still, I have witnessed the looks and watched as some pull away to this day.
It remains a difficult topic of discussion, and I admit the conversation may be uncomfortable. However, more uncomfortable are the lost believers out there feeling alone and isolated, and my sitting here knowing and never doing anything about it. Uncomfortable are the phone calls after a suicide attempt, or worse, after a death from suicide. The words my child is an addict, that is uncomfortable. The silence from other believers who have nothing to say is uncomfortable, too. Trigger words like Bipolar, Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorder, Addiction, and Schizophrenia- send a Christian ‘friend’ running. We struggle to remain grounded in Christ through our mental health journey, and when those around us turn dark and leave rather than love, the darkness gets even darker.
I pray the road to a brighter future in mental health care is coming. I pray the stigmas continue to be stomped until they do not exist. We cannot tackle mental illness once a year on World Mental Health Awareness day, but this conversation must take place on a daily basis. Every day a beautiful soul questions their existence and will to go on. Every day you are sitting next to, walking next to, or talking to someone who is battling a mental illness. Every day those suffering deserve more. It is time for the voices to rise, for care to evolve, and for access to mental health care to be available to all. The reality that effects more than 46 million Americans needs to be real to all Americans. We fight cancers, we fight heart disease, diabetes, and many other physical illnesses. It is time to put a genuine full-scale effort into the fight for those with a mental illness.