Friday, June 27, 2008

LISTEN UP! Are you interested in mental health?

Is it OK to be mentally ill?
Going by the evidence most Canadians appear to believe it is.

The Globe and Mail, in its Breakdown series, did a fine job last week on highlighting the ongoing struggle many individuals and families face in dealing with the crushing realities of mental illness. In October, 1998, Scott Simmie wrote a similar, and award winning, series in the Toronto Star. His title 'Out of Mind' revealed the uncomfortable truth that the Canadian public has had little interest in compelling our leaders to act. In the intervening years, virtually nothing has changed on the front lines where most sufferers and helpers are fighting the battle for health and wellness.
We are still waiting for supportive housing, the crucial element in any plan to address this crisis.
The National Scandal of damaged people being shuffled from one government department to another, trying to find assistance, plays out like a tragic farce. Specifically, people are forced to travel back and forth between agencies providing 'social services' (money) and those providing health care, housing or shelter, food, clothing and sense of community, often while also dealing with more acceptable illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.

The Ministry of Health is not set up to work together with Provincial or Municipal Social Services Ministries. There is little or no coordination between these agencies for people who do not fit neatly into the medical model for physical illness.
Do we accuse a person with diabetes or epilepsy of being responsible for his or her illness?
Would we send blind people to three different branches of the CNIB?
Why is it acceptable tell a mentally incapacitated person to 'just get a job'?

People are a bit like buildings. Sometimes they look sad and forlorn, sometimes comical and fresh. Looking from the outside doesn't say much about the inside. What strengths, surprises, costs and depravities remain hidden? Agents and friends can help to find self-identity; enemies, mis-directed friends and enviromental pests attack both foundation and structure.

Last year Canada finally established a Mental Health Commission to attempt to address the lack of attention given to those Canadians who suffer cracks in their foundations, that 10% of us who are likely to experience severe, debilitating mental and spiritual distress at some point in our lives. The hope is that money will, at long last, be dedicated to research for treatment and cure for those things that afflict our minds and spirits. But throwing money around in the ivory towers of academia will not be enough. Certainly research must be done. Counselling heelps. The heart of the matter will begin to be addressed when we can discuss together and pray about the harsh realities which have been swept under the proverbial rug.

Why are our religious institutions largely silent on this issue? When have you heard a message about the spiritual resources available to bring to bear on this topic? Are there ever connections between mental illness and evil spirits? Do chaplains and medical professionals coordinate their efforts to heal? What would Jesus have Us do?
Thank God for the good work that is being done.
Much, much more is needed.

We, who have suffered schizophrenia, psychosis or depression will not tolerate society's stigma. The taboo is broken. Praise the Name of JESUS!
Lend us your ears!
Invite us to speak at your places of worship, community centers, schools, anywhere interested people will gather. Let us tell how God heals and delivers. Let us work and pray that no more of us, or our loved ones, suffer needlessly due to neglect and ignorance. Let's make good use of the quality programs that already exist and build together the healthy communities that we all need.
Let's free up funding, and other resources, and empower all Canadians to help each other!

Let us be rebuilders of the breach.
Mental illness should never be OK!

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