The other day I had a conversation here at Bridge St. UC about dealing with challenging folk in congregations. I recalled a woman in a previous congregation who stood up from her place in the choir one Sunday during the time of my predecessor and began proclaiming. This same person showed up early one Sunday when I was at the church alone and told me excitedly that she was Jesus Christ, returned as a woman. I wasn't sure how to respond! Welcome back?
Her mental illness was spectacularly on display at times, yet we found our way through those moments. Usually she had chosen to go off her medication, even deceiving her long-suffering husband in that regard. While she could still be startling in her pronouncements, she would return to health in a community of faith which was patient and supportive, for the most part.
There have been many people in congregations through the years who've lived with mental illness and sought mental health through a variety of avenues, including their faith. Some were elderly, some were children, and mental illness affected men and women, regardless of their socio-economic status. The majority went about their daily lives unnoticed, literally suffered in silence, with few others aware of the darkness of their depression or crippling anxiety. Sadly I've presided at the funerals of some who could no longer stand the pain.
During this Mental Health Week we can ask, out loud, how we can be communities of caring and practical support. We may feel helpless, or overwhelmed, or just awkward as we sense the mental issues of others. Yet we should not be silent, Here is the blurb from CMHA about this week:
This year during CMHA Mental Health Week, Canadians are speaking up: we’ve been in line for mental health care for way too long. We can’t wait anymore. We are literally sick of waiting. But we’re not only waiting for mental health care. To be truly mentally well, Canadians also need psychotherapy, counselling and community-based mental health services and programs; we need acknowledgement and respect; and we need adequate housing. This CMHA Mental Health Week, May 1-7, Canadians are writing their MPs, speaking out on social media, and donating our time and money, all in the name of getting loud for mental health.