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May 2, 2021 | The 23rd Times

By April 28, 2021 No Comments

MAY: Mental Health Awareness Month

by: by Joanne Halt. M.A.

Every statistic has a personal story. Rates of anxiety and depression have dramatically increased in the past year. The statistics are saying that the rate of mental health symptoms has jumped from one in five to one in three persons being affected by a mental health challenge during the pandemic. There are many internal and external factors that have always contributed to mental health difficulties such as brain chemistry, trauma, stress, stigma, social media use, economic recession, etc. A genetic weakness, enough damaging stressors and we are all at risk for a brain disorder. A more common experience for people this past year has been the struggle to manage the loneliness and isolation that resulted from fighting Covid 19.

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When we consider our own community, families, schools, and congregation, we know many people who are struggling. Research shows that one of the key factors in a person’s ability to recover, or in the case of a more severe mental health diagnosis, to manage symptoms so that they don’t negatively impact daily life, is the support offered by the community. Everyone who experiences mental health recovery and resiliency has a network of support. Our challenge as a faith filled community is to bring people from a silent, stigmatized confusion when brain disorders manifest to a practical and grace-filled solution. Such a narrative begins with – “You are not alone. You belong to us because you belong to God.” Such support is faith in action. This care extends to those outside our circle as well, such as the homeless with chronic mental health issues who need advocates to press for housing. Our own isolation has given us a small taste of what is ordinary existence for many.

Hope is the key ingredient to an individual’s recovery process once a brain disorder strikes. It is not just wishful thinking. Hope is hard to access for families when they experience loved one’s behavioral symptoms firsthand. Often confusion, grief, resentment, fear and shame-all common responses- overwhelm us. Jesus never required behavioral change in folks before He affirmed that they were precious and worthy of His Presence. As we emerge from this past year of fear laden days, let us resolve to continually offer practical grace, hope, and support by becoming an educated resource for our loved one or our neighbor. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrew 11:1)

We will be offering our monthly support group for family members who need to understand how to best support their loved one. We will meet in the St. Therese room in the Parish Life Center on May 11 at 6pm. Masks and social distancing are required. Following parish guidelines, reservations are requested to insure spacing requirements at: joannehalt@gmail.com

If you need help now in understanding how best to support your loved one (or yourself) with a mental health difficulty, email joannehalt@gmail.com