Each May, we remind one another to be attentive to the mental health of those whom we love, as well as our own. Caring for our mental health is vital to our sense of wholeness – body, mind, and soul.
Jesus declares that “You shall love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When we understand this command fully, we can plainly see that to be ready and able to go wherever Jesus calls us to fulfill his ministry in the world, we must be of good physical and mental health. To be “whole” takes our whole selves being ready!
The month of May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, which gives us an opportunity to pay attention to our own mental health along with that of others while we learn ways in which to improve our own. Let’s begin by looking closely at the components of some Mental Health Issues which may be in response to a situation and/or be physiological in nature.
Depression – overwhelming sadness that doesn’t go away.
Anxiety – when worries and fear affect our ability to function day-to-day.
Bipolar – when mood swings (very high highs and very low lows) are pervasive and persistent.
Personality Disorders – when long-term patterns of thoughts and behaviors are unhealthy and inflexible. Personality disorders cause serious problems with relationships and work, as people with these have trouble dealing with everyday stresses and problems, often resulting in stormy relationships with other people.
Psychosis – when one’s thoughts and emotions are so disordered that the person has lost contact with external reality.
Eating Disorders – when our physical and mental health and overall well-being are affected by the way we eat or don’t eat and/or by our body image or how we see ourselves.
Post-Traumatic Stress – when we are continually bothered by a previous traumatic life event.
Addiction – when alcohol or controlled substance use takes over our lives.
Ways to dismantle the stigma that often surrounds mental health issues:
Acknowledgement that a mental health issue needs to be addressed by mental health professionals.
Talk about our own struggles, thus normalizing a mental health issue.
Educating others. Education leads to understanding, understanding leads to empathy, empathy leads to compassionate care.
Community and church responses to mental health issues:
Our church is well connected with organizations that help individuals, couples, and families who want and need to seek help:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – this organization provides support groups and free classes to those whose family members suffer from mental illnesses. NAMI meets virtually on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday evenings each month.
Samaritan Counseling Centers of the Mid-South has four offices in the Memphis area to provide therapeutic counseling to individuals, couples, and families. Issues addressed include:
Grief and loss
Samaritan Counseling believes that financial limitations should not preclude any person from receiving needed care, so counseling fees are based on the circumstances of the individual, income and family size. Services are made possible by contributions from community partners, individual donors, and our active annual community fundraising activities.
To learn more, seek a counseling session, and/or contribute:
www.samaritanmidsouth.org – or call 901-729-3900.
Another word about Mental Health
Because everyone can benefit from knowing more about mental health, here are a few suggestions:
- Keep or create a rhythm to your day - start your day with positivity and possibility: wake up with the sun, make your bed, get dressed
- Eat healthy foods; try new recipes
- Be creative - try new activities or return to old ones that you used to enjoy when you had the time
- Connect with God – pray daily; read God’s Word; join a faith community; attend Sunday classes or Bible studies.
- Connect with Family and Friends – call and check on your friends and neighbors and visit with them in-person when possible.
- Connect with Nature – fresh air is good for our bodies and our souls.
- Unplug – set a time of day when you will unplug from your devices.
- Reach out – find mental health resources whenever you need to talk to someone.
- Serve God by serving others – this will make a world of difference in your own mental health.
- Be gentle with yourself – breathe deeply, exhaling anxiety and inhaling the breath of the Holy Spirit of God, and telling yourself “This, too, shall pass.” Repeat over and over again until you begin to feel calm.
Remember that we are all one family of God, and we are doing the best we can. Continue being the hands and feet, the voice, and very presence of Christ Jesus to everyone we meet, as well as with ourselves. Jesus is beside us, come what may, and never leaves us alone. Your clergy are here to be beside you in your life and faith journeys – today, tomorrow, and always.
A Message from Earle Donnelson, Ph.D.
Mental Health Awareness
May is just around the corner and May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. Given the overall levels of mental health concerns along with the impact of COVID 19, we thought it would be appropriate to talk about it now.
Most of us know someone with a mental health concern or have firsthand experience with our own. These issues know no boundaries and cut across race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, and even political and spiritual affiliations. Some of these issues may be genetically disposed, passed down by or simply modeled by a family. Some are more physiological or chemically-based in nature. Some are based on traumas or experiences from our childhoods or events in our adult lives.
Regardless of the cause, addressing them is the key to becoming aware of the issues, and then learning how to cope, grow, adapt, and hopefully overcoming them.
Unfortunately, many individuals who may seek treatment deal with the stigma of acknowledging they’re struggling. Some struggle with shame or embarrassment and don’t dare tell anyone about what’s going on with them. And yet it is important that individuals be able to address and talk about their concerns with someone. Whether that’s a pastor or a therapist, it’s always important to do so—sooner rather than later. Being proactive about addressing an issue may make the difference in the severity and the outcome of an issue.
More recently, COVID 19 has added an additional layer of anxiety, stress, and complexity to our lives. This may put individuals or families at greater risk for struggles than they might have previously experienced.
Whatever the situation, be proactive. Pay attention to your thoughts, your feelings, your rhythms. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Take control over any issue which is impacting you. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of facing it. Talk about it with others. If not with others, seek out help and treatment.
While May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Mental Health is a yearlong, 24/7 effort that is important to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
Take care of yourselves, listen to each other and be well.
Thank You, Earle Donelson, Ph.D.
Samaritan Counseling Centers of the Mid-South