Matthew 1:28-30 – (Jesus said,) “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Gratitude Day 745
The woman was struggling to hold it together. Big tears poured down her cheeks, even as she tried to wipe them away with a Kleenex. Finally, she said the words that needed to be said, “Am I going crazy right now?”
No, sweetie. You are not going crazy, even if it feels like it right now.
May is Mental Health Month and such an important opportunity for us to acknowledge mental illness is real. When we ourselves, or someone else feels the weight of not being able to sort things out, it is crucial that we do not keep those feelings and emotions inside. We need to give them space to breathe and find someone who can help us with these emotions and feelings.
Mental health numbers are souring right now. After years of isolation and limited contact, so many people are struggling. Some clinics in the Milwaukee area now have a trained mental health professional on staff so people who need assistance can see someone at their local clinic. This is a great way to respond to current needs.
I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, or someone trained in mental health. Yet, many times, I have sat with someone who feels their world has fallen apart. They wonder aloud if they can hold it together. The stress and anxiety and depression just feel too great.
May as Mental Health Month not only brings awareness of mental health, it also encourages us to take responsibility for our own mental well-being. Both are important aspects of understanding how we can care for our own mental states.
If most of us were honest, we would admit that we have struggled with some mental challenges at some point in our lives. Whether it be anxiety or depression or unable to deal with stress or we struggled with grief, we probably have felt lost and alone. Sharing this experience with someone else is challenging. But this is how we begin to see that we do not have to remain stuck in this spot that feels like there is no escape.
I wish we could all be more comfortable in asking for help with things are not in a good place. It is so important that we ask for help. Recently, I was talking with a person who was experiencing some mental health challenges. This person let someone else know they were struggling. Thankfully, the other person took the plea for help seriously and helped find resources for the struggling person.
After getting some assistance, the struggling person shared with me that the counseling helped them understand how to reframe their struggles, anxiety and depression. The counselor became a safe place for the person to share their inner-most feelings, as well as explain some things this person had witnessed and never shared with anyone else. I am so thankful this person asked for help, received it and now has some tools to help them deal with the challenges they have experienced. This person discovered that they did not have to stay stuck in a bad spot.
It takes great courage to admit to another person when someone feels this way. Affirming their vulnerability is so important, so the person knows they are in a safe place to share their feelings. Even if you are not able to do anything other than listen, when someone bears their heart and soul, we MUST LISTEN.
If the person speaks of harming themselves or someone else, then immediately call for help. If they share that they are considering harming themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255. If unsure who else to call, dial 9-1-1. If someone’s words are bothering you, error on the side of being too cautious than to not doing something and later wished you had.
If immediate harm is not a concern, please still view the person’s struggles as real. Maybe they need some assistance in figuring out what to do next, who they could call or how they might get some help. Sometimes, they just need a friend’s listening ear. When we are not trained in these areas, it is necessary that we recognize our limitations in helping someone beyond listening. There are skilled and trained people in this area for a reason and there should be no shame in finding a guide to help you journey through a challenging time.
Unsure where to start? Call your doctor and ask for a referral. Ask a trusted person who might have insights. Check out who is available through your insurance and read reviews about potential counselors. It may take visiting more than one potential counselor before you find someone who you connect with. If someone does not click with you, don’t stop trying to find someone. Keep going until you find a trained professional that fits you.
There are so many more options today than even just a few years ago. You can see a counselor online, participate in a group option in-person or online. Sometimes the wait times can feel daunting. When this happens, find a trusted friend that you can at least share with until you can see a trained profession. The friend’s role is not to fix or help solve your issues. Their role is simply to listen.
People in certain jobs have seen a rise in mental health challenges. People deemed as essential workers when COVID-19 began are struggling with the lingering pandemic. People who work in healthcare professions, educational professionals and administrators, emergency personal, production agriculture, clergy, and many I am forgetting are feeling the lingering effects of being in year three of a pandemic. Many are fatigued, exhausted and have not been able to care for themselves and their families as they would like.
Teen and youth mental health numbers have escalated during the pandemic. Students have felt isolated, struggled with virtual education and have missed out on activities and celebrations which has led to many feeling lost and confused. If we become aware of someone struggling, it is so important that we honor their feelings and affirm that it is OK to feel this way. When we are out of our league in being able to help them, our role is simply to listen and then help them find resources where they can get help.
Another part of May as Mental Health Month is to take responsibility for our own mental health. We cannot always prevent ourselves from encountering mental health issues. We may get blind-sided by them. But there are some things we can do to protect our hearts, souls and minds on a daily basis:
- Connect with others
- Be physically active
- Be generous and help others
- Get enough sleep
- Provide opportunities to experience joy and satisfaction in our lives
- Eat a diet that includes lots of good things and limits foods that should be eaten in moderation
- Care for yourself spiritually
- Allow yourself space to work through challenging times
- Seek professional help when you continue to struggle
- Embrace healthy and productive ways to release stress and anxiety
Too often, we focus on just one area of our well-being. I feel it is so important to look at how we care for ourselves emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually all together. Each care area feeds into the others. When we are unhealthy in one area, we tend to struggle in the other areas. Seeking help in one area will often encourage us to embrace healthier choices in other areas.
God does not want us to struggle in any of these areas. In fact, this is why Jesus assures us that when we struggle, God struggles with us. When our burden or load become too much to bear, we can offload some of our stress and anxiety on God. God will gladly accept our challenges and wants to be with us as we struggle through life. Our burdens will be lighter when we embrace God’s desire to journey with us. What a wonderful feeling it is to know God is there is help us through these awful stages of life.
I hope that we
will all be a bit more compassionate towards mental health these days and those who feel weighted down by their personal mental struggle. Mental health does not only happen during the 31 days of May. But we can use the days of this month to educate ourselves, become more aware of who might be struggling with mental wellbeing, seek out assistance ourselves and allow for conversations with others about this topic happen in safe places.
For a God who is empathetic towards those with mental health challenges, I am grateful.
Dear God – I lift up the names of those who I know struggle with mental illness. You already know their names but I share them again so I can offer my loving care for them as well. Lay your healing hand upon those who struggle with mental illness. May we be more gracious towards those who do. Amen.
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