The more we discuss mental illness the better off we’ll be

Mental health takes center stage in January due to the “post-vacation blues”. And Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love did us all a favor by stepping out. Not the kind of coming out you might expect.

Love said he was battling mental illness.

This confession is never easy, especially for men and boys. Labels of wimpy, weak, and weird, and questions of what (did you do to cause this) and why (did it happen) inevitably follow. Careers often suffer or sink after acknowledging mental illness.

The stigmas are still very real in our society. Just ask Love.

Mental illness also has devastating effects on society. Mental illness has caused more mass shootings than terrorism. It is at the root of many of the suicides that have deeply affected our communities.

I read the painful articles of a Portage County mother who lost the second of her three sons to suicide. His plea: “Seek help and choose life! Do NOT select a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Jesus commanded us to “Look at the log in our own eyes” (Matthew 7).

Churches must therefore ask “what more can we do?” Many, like Alliance Friends and Damascus Friends Church, have offered support groups like GriefShare & Celebrate Recovery. There remains the lingering feeling that there is more we can and must do.

Despite the stigma, many are opening up about mental illness. Jerry West, the star player of the NBA; all-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps; statesman Winston Churchill; the famous pastor Charles Spurgeon; journalist Mike Wallace; Prince Harry; and President Abe Lincoln has all admitted to battling this disease. Fortunately, this openness helps bring others to the light where healing and help is available.

The Bible talks about confession, taking our garbage out of the chest and bringing it to light. This is how healing begins. Celebrate Recovery reminds us, “You are as sick as your secrets. “

The Bible says, “If we confess … he [Jesus] is faithful… to purify us… to confess… and to pray for one another so that you may be healed… I am the light of the world. The one who follows me [Jesus] will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life… bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. (I John 1: 9; James 5:16; John 8:12; Galatians 6: 1-2)

One of the wisest counselors I know has urged the church to provide “safe places” to share as a first step towards healing.

Hopefully the more we talk about mental illness, the more safe places and safe people will “come out” too – to help. Then more injured people will find the fullness that they need and that God wants for all of us. It is life to the fullest that Jesus promised: “I have come that you may have life … life in abundance” (John 10:10)!

Rick Sams is Pastor Emeritus at Alliance Friends Church.

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