On Sunday we had the privilege of hearing about the challenges of dealing with mental health issues from Luci Keazer and Lisa and Kurt Harker. They provided us with some excellent resources on how to obtain help for ourselves or a family member (see the list below).
In addition, all of these organizations are looking for volunteers. As Lisa mentioned, they have all drastically changed lives for the better, but “How much better if we include Jesus in the mix?”
Home Hospital Psychiatric Services
The 20-bed psychiatric unit provides specialized care to voluntarily admitted, adult psychiatric patients who are dealing with a wide variety of mental health conditions.
Lafayette Urban Ministry Homeless Shelter
Donations of toiletry items such as unopened soaps, shampoo, lotions, and razors are gratefully appreciated. Also, food items such as coffee, cereal, sugar, and salad dressings are very helpful. Thank you!
Mental Health America of Tippecanoe County
National Alliance for Mental Illness – West Central Indiana
Wabash Valley Hospital and Mental Health
Full Text of Sunday’s Presentation
Spoken by Kurt Harker
Hi, my name is Kurt Harker; my wife Lisa. And this is Luci Keezer. This month’s “mission moment” is about how the church, the Body of Christ, can minister to those living with mental illness. Within our community, our jobs, and our families, are individuals who suffer silently from mental health struggles. Sometimes they have addictions as well. Often these people and their hope of recovery are hidden by stigma and shame. Satan loves to keep things in the dark.
This is a Scripture verse from John Chapter 9 that I’ve frequently heard quoted in reference to mental illness…
1 As he went along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:1-3)
I have bipolar disorder. Shortly after graduating from Purdue, I for no apparent reason sank into a deep depression. I was promptly hospitalized and treated. Now 25 years later, I’m still being treated and likely will be for the rest of my life. I’ve been hospitalized three times. But there is good news! God has been working in my life. My recovery is due to a combination of medicine, counseling, support from family and friends, and my faith in God.
Though it’s become easier for me to self-disclose my illness over the years, that has not always been the case. There is a tremendous stigma associated with it. That stigma brings a fear that others won’t accept me, sometimes even in the church. I now work in the Adult Psychiatric Unit at Home Hospital. It is tragic when our patients refuse to accept their diagnoses and the essential treatment, because of the stigma. Consequently, they often self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs. Recovery from a mental illness requires acceptance, treatment, and ongoing support from people around them who care.
Spoken by Luci Keazer
Several years ago a family member was unexpectedly struck with the onset of a mood disorder, which has been a disability to achieving earlier goals and plans. Since then, we’ve learned much about mental illnesses: the symptoms and diagnoses, the biological and neuro-chemical basis, medications, side-effects, and the understanding to provide support to our family member and ourselves.
Much of our education and support has come from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which advocates for education, acceptance, understanding and effective treatment for those who suffer from serious mental illness and their families. Resources are available for anyone who would benefit from their local educational or support programs. As a volunteer, I serve on the local NAMI board of directors, teach an 11-week family education course, and work with others towards solutions for mental health issues.
People can suffer from many types and degrees of brain disorders that cause mental illness. Just like anyone who suffers from an illness, they are not to blame; it is not their fault. The brain is a complex organ that is vulnerable to sickness like the rest of our body. Our current understanding is that brain disorders are caused by a genetic tendency coupled with other factors, such as a prenatal or early infection, or some kind of injury or trauma to the brain, or other change which can affect the way your brain functions. People struggling with mental health issues need our love, acceptance and respect, as well as the opportunities for healing and growth. Unfortunately, many are misunderstood, neglected, and not offered the treatment and opportunities needed to live a fulfilling life. With proper treatment and support, restored lives are possible. Left untreated, the outcome can be devastating.
Jesus reached out to marginalized groups of people such as these. We can also reach out and extend Jesus’ love, accepting and respecting others as they are. We can offer our friendship and support, forgiving and being patient with their shortcomings, just as God has done to us.
I like this quote from Corrie Ten Boom which describes how God can use us in whatever mission field we find ourselves placed, “I know that my experiences are not a key to the past, but to the future…my experiences are the perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do”.
Spoken by Lisa Harker
Have you ever gotten a stomach ache because you were nervous? Or a neck ache because you were stressed? The mind, body, spirit and soul are all connected. You will see numerous examples of this happening in the Bible. Mental changes can strike anyone, just like diabetes or asthma or arthritis. Some of the most common ones are related to anxiety, obsessions, compulsions, substance abuse, and mood disorders such as depression, bipolar and schizoprhenia.
There are people like me, who have had physical or environmental changes, and we temporarily need an antidepressant and counseling.
Or there are people like Kurt or Luci’s family member, who have a more permanent change in their brain chemistry.
When people behave “differently,” they become inconvenient. But they aren’t inconvenient to Jesus.
Whether you know it or not, you KNOW someone being treated by a mental health provider. One in four people have a diagnosis. Don’t look now, but there might be someone in your row!
So what does this mean for you? Myths and misinformation are very common. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. It is important not to judge, make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Think before you speak. They can’t just “get over it,” “try harder” or “have more faith.” Be supportive and understanding. Be a friend. Pray for them. For me, when Kurt was hospitalized or in intensive treatment, the worst part was that people didn’t know what to do, so they did nothing. Finally, refuse to perpetuate the stigma.
There are a number of organizations that need volunteers: NAMI, the Mental Health Association, The Seeds of Hope Day Shelter, Lafayette Urban Ministry homeless shelter, HomeHospital and WabashValleyHospital. They have all drastically changed lives for the better. But the church is largely absent in this picture. How much better if we include Jesus in the mix?
We have a resource table with information. Ask yourself how you can use your God-given time, talents and resources to minister to those with a mental health issue. As Jesus said in the book of Matthew: “Whatever you do for the least of them, you do for me.”