A reality that so many of us deal with on a regular basis but rarely want to talk about is mental illness. According to the Surgeon General, one in every five Americans experience a mental disorder in any given year, and half of all Americans battle with a disorder at some point in their lives. Even if you do not personally have a mental illness, chances are someone close to you does. Yet mental illness has a major stigma, and it’s widely misunderstood. It feels embarrassing and shameful to admit you have one; yet it is your reality. And so, many choose to suffer in silence.
As people of faith, our job is not to fix people or fix the mental illness. Our job is to open ourselves up to understanding mental illness and to be compassionate. How can we fix this mental health stigma? How can we look at others with mental illness and identify them as human beings, not just “crazy” or “nuts?” How can we support each other? We are all called to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), even if it is uncomfortable for us.
Remember that we are all loved by God, no matter what label has been given to us on Earth. Remember that we are called to love each other and help each other. It takes time to learn about mental illness; it takes time to change our perspective. But it is what we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is worth it because we are worth it.
If you are experiencing mental illness, please know that you are not alone. You are loved by a God whose love knows no bounds, who weeps with you and cares for you so deeply. There are resources out there for you, such as the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). If you need someone to talk to, please call the helpline at (800) 950-6264.
Kate Mensing is pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Isle.