Friday, 4 October 2013

Mental Health? We've all got it!

The reality is that mental health is something that everyone possesses and whilst many might consider theirs to be sound, the reality is that squalls can appear on the most tranquil of waters at the most unexpected times. Some years back I watched a science programme which billed Uganda's LakeVictoria as the stormiest place on the globe with Italy taking the most consistently good prize - and I don't know it that's right or not, but the same goes for people - some are known for their storms whilst others for their constancy or tranquility. That said I've experienced sunny days on the shores of Victoria (bilharzia and nasty snappy things too) and had raging storms in Italy. Climatic squalls and brainsqualls can affect us all and with some they pass and others they remain to act as limitation, debilitation and curse.

It seems to me that here are a number of taboos in our society today but that which tops the league is to be found in the area of mental illness and even though it cannot be caught, it is treated as contagious and those who suffer from it are often treated much like mediaeval lepers. What I find is that those who should seek to keep the faith with the mentally ill and tolerate the excesses that the illness brings, rarely do.

I know that sufferers can be embarrassing - but so can we at times and we don't have the excuse of  any illness, and yet we seek understanding and continuing love, don't we?

I know that those who are shackled by mental health issues live lives that often exist in solitary confinement - trapped in walls made of brick, perceptions and responses (theirs and ours).

I know that those who care for those with mental illness are sufferers too! They live in the perennial fear that the next crisis might be the last the focus of their love might have. They find themselves shut in as they fight to keep their loved one stable, supported and, often, alive.

A man I worked with years ago, speaking of his psychosis said that he, 'Lived a death sentenced waiting to be carried out!' Sadly for him, that sentence was never commuted and he eventually took his life. The 'Black Dog' made so famous by Winston Churchill, eventually delivered a fatal bite.

So I'm writing this as a bit of a plea, asking that we - theist or atheist - take a moment to think of those we know who have issues with their own mental wellbeing or perhaps those for whom they care; asking the questions:

How do we care for those who care for people with illness (physical or mental), and do we deal equally between the two?

How do we regard the two? Are they regarded equally or do we have prejudices and blind spots?

We are called to love and provide places of security for the weak, the marginalised, the oppressed, the acted against and disenfranchised. All things that can be found residing in one blanket term:

 Mentally ill.

What are we doing to help others become as well as we might like to think we are?

What are we doing for those with mental health issues to help them, and those who care for them,  to help them live in a supportive and caring place?



UKViewer said...

As someone whose suffered from depression in the past, I hear you loud and clear.

The worse thing for me was that my CO at the time labeled it as mental illness and put it in a report. When I told the Army Doctor I had seen about it, he was livid. Because, the depression was temporary, due to a bad time going through a marital breakdown.

That label stuck with me for several years and inevitably affected my chances of commissioning or extending my service.

Luckily, I was able to overcome it and went onto serve a further 23 years and was eventually commissioned.

Poor mental health still attracts a certain stigma, mostly from people who are either ill educated or just plain prejudiced.

You rightly highlight our responsibility or compassion and care for all who are ill, and mental illness is no different. Safeguards are needed to protect those at risk of self-harm or who might harm others. These are things that good governance, and training can help us all with.

I'd like the church to give this more attention during the training of both Clergy and Lay leaders in pastoral care.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I too would love to see this form a more engaged, informed and mature part of our training - for mental heath issues are to be found in many areas as an influencing factor and are often either symptom or cause.

thanks for comments,


Anonymous said...

I took this to my PCC on Sunday and from it we have decided to set up an informal mental health support group caring for those who care and supporting those who suffer.

I'd like to thank you for being the catalyst for something that has been missing from our church family for far to long and for being our Jimminy Cricket and being our conscience.

May God Bless you and your work

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Gosh! Thank you for such encouraging words and such an encouraging response from your church - a double blessing indeed.


Bob L said...

Have you seen the latest offering regarding mental health and crime by any chance? Makes for interesting reading and supports the views you have made here.


Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Bob - just back in from funeral and read BBC précis of the thing - not good reading is it :-(

Thank you for pointing me to it - will try and get full copy for a read as it will inform the Police Chaplaincy I do I'm sure.

Thanks again,