Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days? (Lamentations 5:20)
As I recall from my high school English classes, one should begin a paper (or a meditation) with some form of a topic sentence. This topic sentence will set the stage and introduce the information that will follow. But I fear that if I opened with my topic for this meditation, many people would quit reading. Why? Because my topic is mental illness.
Even though 20% of the American population struggles with some form of mental illness, there remains a significant stigma surrounding the topic. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to hear about it. And therefore, many people struggle alone and in silence, feeling forgotten and forsaken.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
God does not abandon us. Yes, the Bible is filled with laments as people and communities cry out to God, but notice they are still crying out to God. And often times these laments are answered with the assurance of deliverance and the promise of God’s Spirit being felt once again. God loves you and is with you, no matter what.
We also cannot abandon each other. Help is out there for those struggling with mental health issues. But to ensure that everyone has access to that help, we must first overcome the stigma and fear and discrimination that surrounds mental illness. Most people I know are all too happy to talk about their physical afflictions and doctor visits, sometimes to the point of TMI (too much information). But mental health care is still wrongly viewed as a weakness and something we should be able to handle on our own.
If someone you know reaches out for help, try to respond as you would if they told you they had a physical health issue, that is with love and compassion. Listen, and encourage them to get the help they need. Take time to familiarize yourself with the resources available. The Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services (https://www.hcbmhas.org/), National Alliance on Mental Illness (https://www.nami.org/Home) and the UCC Mental Health Network (https://www.mhn-ucc.org/) are good places to start.
And if you are struggling with a mental health issue, please reach out for help. You do not have to do this alone. Along with the resources noted above, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is for anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Simply dial 9-8-8 and ask for help.
For those who took the time to read this to the end, thank you. Together, we can overcome the stigma of mental illness so that everyone can know and enjoy the abundant life God wants for us all.