Welcoming today’s fugitive Arameans

by Rabbi Deborah Bronstein

Every year, Jews around the world read these words from Deuteronomy 26:5:

Arami Oved Avi: My ancestor was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt and resided there in meager numbers and sojourned there, as strangers…

It’s probably not so difficult for many Jews or other new immigrants in our country to say: “my father, my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother was a wandering, frightened, courageous outsider. You and I probably live in close enough proximity to have heard family stories of surviving day to day, barely tolerated at the margins of society, afraid to stick out lest visibility bring down trouble, speaking a language that no one else understood.

Is it not right that we look up from our holy books to notice who the fugitive Arameans are today? I would posit that they are people who are chronically mentally ill. These fugitive Arameans live as many of our families did: at the edges, outside of normative society, anxiety provoking and unwanted. Truth to tell, there are many in our congregations who would just as soon not see these wandering Arameans wander too close – even though they are close. They are our friends, they are sitting beside us, afraid to stick out lest visibility bring down trouble.

Members of congregations often expect members of their places of worship to come to their doors to pray, to learn, to celebrate, to find comfort and companionship. Let us not be places where all are welcome except the “crazy ones.”

Only part of our task is to welcome in and help sustain people who are mentally ill, those who live on the outskirts of society and those who manage to go to work and carry on day by day heavily burdened. May they know that they are truly welcome to walk through our doors. Part of our task is to recognize that too many of us are wandering Arameans, turned away when they are deserving of a place to reside, not alone, not as a stranger, but as one who is a human being created in the image of God.

Rabbi Deborah Bronstein

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

Holiday Self-Care, Part 2

By Mary Kay Irving

In my previous blog post, I covered the basics of physical self care that are so important to maintaining emotional balance and strength through the stress of the holiday season.  As essential as it is to get plenty of rest, good food and to stay hydrated with water, it is just as crucial that we honor our individual social and emotional needs.

This time of year offers many opportunities to gather with others at the workplace, with friends, family and at neighborhood parties.  Some may feel pressured by others to attend these events either from others or by internal messages of what we think we ‘ought’ to be doing.   Lets just agree from the outset to give yourself permission to partake in as many or as few of these events as you like.  You do not “have to” attend anything. It is perfectly acceptable to respond to invitations with ‘no’ or ‘no thanks, I have other plans.’   No one needs to know the specifics of your plans whether you are already committed to another party or whether your plans are to stay home alone to get some needed rest or down time. “No thanks” is a complete statement and requires no further explanation.

For those events you do decide to attend, give yourself the option to arrive late and leave early. This can be an empowering option for people with social anxiety or trying to avoid alcohol. For the same reason you may want to turn down carpooling and find your own transportation to further enable your freedom of choice.

For some people their illness might involve or be triggered by something as seemingly harmless as food and drink. For those with an eating disorder you can offer or bring a dish to share that you know will be supportive of your goals and not triggering for you. Or give yourself permission to eat a supportive/healthy meal prior to attending the gathering. If you have alcoholism consider bringing your own festive drink of sparkling cider or specialty teas.

Alternatively you might start and maintain your own holiday traditions. Choose to be with people supportive of you, your family and special needs. You might choose to host your own event where you control the start and end times as well as the guest list. You might choose to see your family at their gathering for a limited time period followed by your own gathering with ‘family of choice.’

Holiday activities don’t have to be large gatherings or centered on food or alcohol. Suggest a gathering to knit scarves or build models for kids at the local homeless shelter or try your hand at making greeting cards to send.  Find an activity that brings joy to others and ultimately to you. Volunteer to sing carols at a nursing home, babysit for that single working mom you know from work, deliver a cup of hot cocoa to the policeman directing parking traffic at the mall. Helping others in need is a known mood booster.

Caregivers and faith leaders can implement, suggest or offer a venue for many of the above activities. Caregivers, including faith leaders, of course also feel the additional stress this time of year. Be sure to create time and conditions for yourself to get out and celebrate in a way that feeds your soul. It is the season for giving after all and just as directed by the flight attendants on an airplane, we must first put the oxygen mask on ourselves and then breathe. Breathe deeply.

Happy Holidays everyone!

In peace and gratitude,

Mary Kay Irving

INMI board member

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

Holiday Self Care

by Mary Kay Irving

Here we are again at this oh-so-joyous and simultaneously stressful of seasons! Our commitment to self care throughout these upcoming days and weeks will go a long way towards helping us lose the ‘bah’ and the ‘bug’ and making sure we keep more of the ‘hum’ in our holidays, whether we are basting the Thanksgiving turkey, lighting the menorah or singing Christmas carols.

To start, lets gain some perspective. Many people, not just those who have or live with someone who has a mental illness, feel added pressure this time of year. Even before Halloween, the Christmas decorations are out in stores. TV specials perpetuate the notion that holidays are a time of excessive happiness spent in perfect harmony with your loved ones. Parties abound with an unending stream of calories and alcohol and gift giving is promoted despite ones means. The lure is to spend more, drink more and attend every gathering possible to reach some illusion of this idealized state of happiness. More often after the parties and holiday are over, many feel regret, guilt and possibly remorse at the added inches and credit card debt, feeling no closer to family or friends or the promised land of happiness.

For those impacted by mental illness the pressures can be magnified. How hard it must be to attend a room of happy, joyful people if your adult child has just been hospitalized for their illness or when it is also the season you lost a loved one to suicide. The prospect of attending the office party may feel terrifying to someone with an anxiety disorder, or for someone fearing a relapse with their alcoholism or binge eating.

What can we do to help ourselves, our loved ones and our congregants throughout these upcoming days? If you are a caregiver or the leader of a faith community or sangha remind your community regularly about self care, be a model of this care and make sure your events offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and non-sugary foods. Additionally, be sure to build into the the hectic holiday schedule periods and places for quiet prayerful and meditative activities. The following list includes suggestions I have learned about, practiced and shared over the years due to their helpfulness to me both personally and professionally. Think of them as tools to add to your personal and congregations bag of options and resources.

  • Maintain your normal routine, including the time you eat and the types of foods you eat.
  • Get plenty of sleep (8 hrs if possible) going to bed and awakening at the same time every day (including weekends).
  • Get regular exercise (hike, bike, walk the dog, snowshoe, board, ski, go dancing, swim at the local  rec center etc.).
  • Maintain hobbies, interests and social connections perhaps while doing some of the above activities.
  • Allow down time, alone time and reflection.
  • If you take medication, take it regularly and make sure prescriptions are filled well in advance.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary food and drinks.

You will notice that 5 out of the 7 suggestions include basic bodily needs such as food, hydration and exercise. Being loving towards our bodies is essential for the healthy functioning of our minds and moods. In part 2 I will move beyond our physical care to address more of the social and emotional self-care skills. Until then, eat, play, rest and allow for the natural arising of gratitude that emanates from a healthy body.

Wishing you peace and gratitude,

Mary Kay Irving

INMI board member

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

A sad good-bye becomes a teachable moment

by Alan Johnson

The obituary said the young man had lived with bipolar disorder and had ended his life.  It was clear, honest and direct. It was published in the local newspaper for all the world to see.

In the obituary, the family suggested that any donations in memory of their son be sent to our church’s Mental Health Ministry, even though they had only attended our church once, when we had Pete Earley, a well-known author and mental health advocate, as a guest speaker. From that single event, the parents knew our church would not be judgmental, but rather would be responsive and supportive in their time of need. Even though I am retired, I was asked to officiate because my brother had ended his life eight years ago. They knew I’d walked the path that led them to our door.

At the memorial service, the father asked the 200-plus people in the church for 18 minutes of their attention as he talked about his son’s 10-year journey with mental illness, what people can do to overcome stigma and how to become educated on mental illness.

I was blown away by the father’s bravery, the power of his message and his willingness to turn his son’s tragic death into a teachable moment.

When my own brother died, there was no mention of suicide or mental illness in his obituary or at his memorial service. Some members of my family are still reluctant to acknowledge my brother ended his life himself.

Has the world changed so much in eight years that it is now safe to talk about suicide and mental illness in public when it wasn’t before? Or does it still take remarkable courage to ignore our society’s taboo on talking about suicide and mental illness, to reject the aura of shame that surrounds these topics? To name it openly. To stare it in the face without blinking.

I salute the family who came to us in their pain and grief and thank them for their courage.

May we all be so brave. May we each do our part to make the world a better place for people with mental illnesses and their families. May we each testify to the support we can offer to each other out of our own grief.

 

Alan Johnson

Member, First Congregational Church UCC, Boulder

INMI Cofounder

Revalan2004@comcast.net

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

Responding to our broken mental healthcare system

by Joanne Kelly

Our mental healthcare system is badly broken.

On Wednesday, I spent 12 hours in the emergency room, waiting with my son for a psychiatric evaluation.

Jay (not his real name) was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder years ago, although I understand in the DSM 5 that is no longer a separate diagnosis. It’s just lumped under “schizophrenia.” He hears voices pretty much all the time – although he calls them “outside influences” rather than voices – and he is convinced it is my husband, Alan, doing the influencing.  It is Alan shrugging his shoulders for him, Alan telling him to smoke that cigarette (which I assure you will only happen when hell freezes over), Alan wiping the smile off his face.

Usually, Jay’s psychotropic medications quiet his voices to a volume he can tolerate. But lately, Jay has been beset with financial worries. His Section 8 housing allowance went down and his rent went up, so he can no longer make ends meet. He ran out of money for food and cigarettes on the 20th of the month. He tried going to one of the “church feeds” for supper, but his table mate’s body odor was so foul he couldn’t eat.  So he stopped eating. And smoking – cold turkey.

The voices quickly ratcheted up to an intolerable level. Hence the trip to the emergency room.

We had been waiting in the emergency room for 9 hours when we learned there were others in the emergency room who had been waiting twice as long, and no matter the results of the eval, he would not be admitted because there was not a single psych bed available in all of Colorado.

Can you image showing up at the emergency room with chest pain and waiting 12 hours to be evaluated? And being told 9 hours into your wait that it didn’t matter what the tests showed, you wouldn’t be admitted to the hospital because there were no beds available anywhere?

It’s not OK for a heart patient to be treated this way nor is it OK for someone with a brain disorder (another name for mental illness) to be treated this way.

I do not fault our local hospital. My son was treated with compassion and kindness by almost everyone we dealt with, and the long wait was not their fault. I also do not fault our local mental health center, whose personnel perform the evaluations at the hospital emergency room. They had just one evaluator on duty per shift, because that’s all the staff they can squeeze out of their badly underfunded budget. The mental health center staff is forced to make difficult decisions every day about how to allocate tightly stretched resources.

So whose fault is it? If we continue to allow our state legislatures to underfund community mental health care, the fault lies squarely on our own shoulders.

I urge you to get involved – not for my son’s sake, but for all of our sakes. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, approximately 1 in 4 people experience a mental illness each year. So even if you are not affected yourself this year, it is likely that a family member, a close friend or the person next to you in the pew on Sunday morning is.

Here’s what Rosalynn Carter says:

“People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action.”

What is your congregation doing to support those with mental illness and advocate for adequate funding to meet their needs? What are you doing as an individual?

Joanne Kelly

Cofounder, Interfaith Network on Mental Illness

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

Phone calls from the group home

by Sue B.

Every evening about 6:00 p.m., an incoming call lights up my phone. The area code is upstate New York. It’s my brother.

Fred is in his 50s and has a mental illness. After years of living with family members and going in and out of hospitals, he was placed in a group home for those with brain diseases like mental illness. We are enormously grateful that such homes exist, and aware how fortunate we are that we found a good one for him.

For reasons neither his therapist nor psychiatrist have been able to figure out, Fred has panic attacks every evening. This is why he calls nightly at 6:00 p.m.  Sometimes he wants reassurance that his medication will indeed kick in to relax him (it always does, eventually). Sometimes he feels proud of himself that he is not as afraid of the attack. And often, he wants a loving reminder about how to get through it.

Fred’s panic attacks are a symptom of his anxiety disorder — a diagnosis he has in addition to his primary diagnosis of schizophrenia. He has been taught deep breathing skills to use when the attacks hit. He’s been told to always alert a staff member so they can breathe with him. His therapist suggested that he try to call my sister and me less – not because we’ve requested it, but because she’s teaching him to  use the resources he has right there in the group home.

But still, he calls.

Sometimes I can’t take his calls. But often, I can.

I have learned, over a period of time, how important my own groundedness is when it comes to offering Fred help. My deep, abiding faith in a God who is Love, and the strength that comes from it, almost always allows me to offer him calm assurance. Though Fred has challenges that are unique to what is called mental illness, I know that he is intelligent, thoughtful, responsible, and is a beloved as a child of the Omnipotent One.

After many years of learning to eradicate my own myths and misunderstandings about mental illness – and learning (through resources available in NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness) what it is, what it isn’t, and how we can provide practical, loving support to those who live with it, I now know how to help him feel more secure when he’s having a panic attack.

“Can you feel your feet on the floor?” I ask him.

He says yes.

“Remember that the ground underneath your feet represents support that is all around you – from people who love you, from God and the whole universe. You’re not alone. You are safe right where you are. Feel your feet on the floor to remind you.”

And then we breathe together.

Slow breaths in through the nose, from the belly, and slowly out through the mouth. Sometimes it helps him to hum on the outbreath. And it helps him to be reminded that he is never outside of God’s care.

We all have different names for God and ways of tapping into the Source we call divine. We may have different words that come to us when we want to express spiritual support to others. For me, sometimes I’m prone to say more, and sometimes I’m prone to say less. I know from my work as a chaplain that presence combined with silent support is very healing at times when people are struggling. Fortunately, it’s a gift we can always give when we don’t know what to do, especially when someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, confusion, or panic.

For my brother, the presence of someone who cares, tender words that he will be OK, the simple practice of feeling his feet on the floor, deep breathing, and a reminder that he can never be separated from God – these are all life-giving aids at times of his panic attacks.

No doubt I will continue to use them every night when he calls.

Sue B.

Interfaith Chaplain

INMI Board member

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

The last taboo of the Christian Church

By Guest Blogger Rachael Keefe

It’s time we talk about the last taboo of the Christian church. It doesn’t matter what denomination or stripe of Christianity you claim, there’s one topic we are all quite uncomfortable talking about. And it made the headlines of this week’s news. I’m not talking about gun control even though that is definitely a conversation worth having. No, I’m referring to mental illness. We need to talk about this or Jeremiah’s lament is going to continue to echo through the end of this millennium and into the next.

The heart of God breaks when innocents die violent deaths and we do nothing to prevent it from happening again. I do not doubt that God hurts for the poor people of God. By why is no one really looking for the balm in Gilead that will restore the health of the people? Sure, call your politicians and tell them how you feel about gun control, but don’t forget to call them to task for not attending to the despicable state of our mental health care system.

Mental illness is a disease, whatever the particular diagnosis. We are not ashamed to talk about heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Why are we ashamed to talk about bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, or personality disorders? These are diseases that affect many people. No one asks to have them. They are not punishment for sins. Mental illness is not caused by demons, though it is certainly evil. Prayer will potentially bring healing but it is not a cure for any disease excepting those rare moments when a miracle happens.

So, I repeat: Mental illnesses are diseases, disorders of the brain. They have medical treatments that are often very effective when combined with other types of therapy. A faith community can be a vital support for those who live with mental illness.

The most recent mass shooting in Washington, D.C. happened because Aaron Alexis slipped through the cracks in the mental health system. This should not happen, ever. Not for someone like Aaron who had a history of gun violence nor anyone else who is experiencing a mental health crisis. This has to change. Lives are being lost at an alarming rate.

I truly believe that the heart of God breaks and Christ weeps over these innocents. We can do better than this. We can push for legislation that expands care for people experiencing a mental health crisis and the aftercare. If you don’t know what mental illness looks like or what the indications of a crisis are, find out. Mostly, though, Christians can find ways to welcome people who live with mental illness into our church communities. We can pray for the one who is suicidal, the one who is psychotic, the one who is depressed, the one who is manic and all those trying to navigate the world with an illness that can sometimes complicate and confuse simple things.

On the whole, we have not been faithful when it comes to mental illnesses. We have turned away or blamed the person living with the illness. It’s time for the faithful to step up to the proverbial plate and care for our neighbors who cannot care for themselves.

There is a balm in Gilead. It’s you and me advocating for justice and loving those society deems unlovable. To paraphrase, Gandhi – if we want the world to change, then we must be that change.

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.

Rachael Keefe

Ordained in the United Church of Christ since 1992. Currently, chaplain at a state psychiatric hospital.

This blog was originally published at Write Out of Left Field

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

Seek Higher Ground

by Janine Starr, MSeD

“Seek higher ground” is what the men were shouting through the bull horns, amid all the warning sirens, down by Boulder Creek on Thursday, September 12, just a few blocks south of my apartment. I couldn’t make out the distinct words, but I could feel the weight of the moment. Something big and public was happening. The authorities knew what I did not yet — that two young people had died on Linden Drive; that a 20-foot wall of water was about to come crashing into town.

Everyone was doing their best to set boundaries around what could not be controlled. They wanted to say, “This is the uncontrolled part where we don’t go, and this part over here is okay for us.” But how can we get out of the way in good conscience when our houses, our town, our beloved hiking trails and mountainsides and roads are in danger of being destroyed? How can we tear ourselves away from the drama of it all, even when we know that it is not safe? Yet if we do not seek higher ground, we will be swept away. And it is only from the high ground that we can see how to rebuild. This is what we in Boulder call a koan or spiritual paradox.

For me, Mental illness has been a lot like the floodwaters. Like the floodwaters, my mental illness has always carried a koan at its heart. On the one hand it is frightening, wild and uncontrollable, carrying with it all kinds of dangerous and toxic debris for me and those around me. On the other, letting it “be” is the first step toward healing. For many years, before I named it and befriended it, I sorely wanted it to go away. As a child I would look up at the evening star and wish, “God, please make me normal! Make me fit in with the other kids and know how to act like them!” I didn’t know then that I was simply missing social cues. Or that my behavior was normal, given my circuitry, and could be managed. That there were ways to learn to compensate for what I was missing, ways to understand how my brain worked and be its friend. This knowledge would have been my higher ground. Back then, the inside of my head was one big roiling torrent, perpetually flooding the lowlands.

Boulder County Sheriff Pelle was quoted in the Daily Camera on Friday, September 13: “All the preparation and want-to in the world can’t put people up the canyon while the debris and water is coming down.”

I have learned to let the floods come and step out of the way. When I have a hard day I take comfort in the knowledge that the next one will be better. I have learned to ride the ebbs and flows of my energy, my moods, my concentration. On this journey I have had many wise guides. The one thing that all of them have in common is the ability to just let it “be” and model for me how to take the high ground.

Janine Starr

MSeD, Cantorial soloist and mental illness survivor

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

A sister’s journey with faith and healing

by Mary Kay Irving, LCSW

Oh how much you matter in our journey towards health and wholeness when recovering from a mental illness.

I was only a teenager when my sister demonstrated what were likely some of her first struggles with mental illness. She had scratch marks all over her arm. She also had some excuse about being pawed by a friend’s cat. Years later, I learned she had been cutting on herself. Back then, her relationship with our mother seemed to grow more tumultuous by the year. As she and our mother grew in conflict, her faith became an ever growing source of comfort and support. She would desperately need that support repeatedly in the  years to come. The truth is, she did not always get the comfort and guidance one would hope for for their loved ones. She tried to seek help from her faith community, but often, well-meaning as they likely were, they did not have the knowledge or training to provide the kind of support that would be helpful.

My sister struggled deeply with severe depressions not uncommon to people diagnosed with what she would later learn to be bipolar disorder and to survivors of the various traumas in her life. Last night as I prepared to write this, my first blog on the matter, she shared with me in more detail just how deep and lonely her struggles were. Like many people who suffer from a mental illness do, she turned time and again to her spiritual leaders and community for support. During one particularly severe period of depression she again reached out for help. This time it was in a faith-based support group for survivors of sexual abuse. She was told that she just needed to “pray more” and “try harder” to get herself out of the depression. She was told that psychology and medication was “bunk.”  I can only imagine the darkness and dejection she must have experienced to hear such statements during her most vulnerable time. The true need was for compassion and direct guidance towards the medical and psychological intervention that could help her overcome her illness.

Things got worse for my sister: hospitalizations, further trauma and abuse, and just a few short years ago she made what seemed, from the calls I received, to be an attempt at suicide. She and I are both incredibly thankful for the compassion of a complete stranger who recognized the distress she was in caused by her overdose of medication. She was taken to a hospital and since then has been on a beautiful trajectory of healing.   She feels — and I agree — that she has been correctly diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and bipolar disorder, and she has found the right medication and a doctor she trusts. She works with a skilled and compassionate faith-based therapist and no longer feels alone.

My sissy credits her faith and belief in God with saving her and keeping her going despite so many low points along her journey. She now shares her own journey with mental illness and healing to help others along their way. I believe we can all do more to educate ourselves so that armed with compassion, resources and knowledge, we can help ease the scary and lonely path of people struggling with a mental illness. There are many more resources than there used to be, so much more knowledge, many more successful treatments and life-saving medications.  Many are seeking guidance and support from you, their trusted leaders in faith, to be their light out of darkness. Please join us in our efforts to become better resources. Make the time for  training, watch our video resources for clergy and faith leaders and please share them with others. There is help and hope. We can all be a light on the journey towards healing for another sister or brother.

Mary Kay Irving, LCSW and ASIST Consulting Trainer

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

“Shhh . . . (she whispered) . . . I am on medication”

by Rev. Alan Johnson

She was 17 years old and came by the booth I was hosting on mental health challenges. Before she whispered these words to me, she had looked around to make sure no one else was listening.  I leaned in and she told me that she has been living with depression and finally she had talked with her mom, found a therapist and started medication. Her depression had been clinging to her spirit, weighing her down, for a long time. But now she is engaged with others, a member of a church youth group, and has even had the courage to tell one of her closest friends of her struggles with depression.

I felt privileged that she would talk with me, a stranger, although I was at a church conference and I was at a display on mental health. She seemed relieved to be able to speak, to name her situation, and to find a listening heart.

There are so many people, including young people, who are living in the shadow of mental health challenges. They are in our families.  They are in our faith communities.  How can we offer the hospitality of spirit so that the sharing of such stories as the teenager’s can be balm for healing and offer hope?

One of the easiest ways faith community leaders can help is by using caring and compassionate words in their sermons, homilies or prayers.  While many congregations are not known for being open to naming mental health challenges, they can start small.  Using the words, “we pray for those who are living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression,” or “we pray for those who are battling addictions or mental illness,” or “we pray for those who are affected by mental illness, including their families and friends,” can open a door for people who are living in the isolation of silence and help them realize they are not alone.  These words can create a space where people can feel safe to speak their truth.

When have you experienced such a welcome?  When has hospitality opened a door for you or someone you love to find a place where your spirit can be at home?  I don’t really know if the 17-year-old girl felt better after talking with me.  However, I surely did feel connected.  I am telling this story so others may also be attentive to those times when chance encounters can help break the silence.  Out of the whisper, a truth was spoken that led from vulnerability to strength.

Alan Johnson,

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness and Caring Clergy Project

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.