Everyone Deserves Mental Health


Since my daughter was diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 14 the nature of mental illness has been a constant part of my life.   As she grew older the complete picture was not quite as clear as we had initially thought, which is typical of symptoms that occur as a person ages.

Now many years later I am not an expert, but I do consider myself greatly educated about the nature of mental illness.   I often find myself educating other people about the realities of living with mental illness.   I suffer myself from a tendency toward melancholy so I understand a bit about having a mood disorder.

May is National Mental Health Awareness month, and as in other years I have preached this year about the feelings and emotions that cause us to feel afraid or isolated or depressed.   As both a parent and a pastor I feel it is my job to advocate for mental health awareness and education so that we can avoid labeling or judging those with mental illness.

There are other factors at work in our lives that may not qualify us as mentally ill per se, but which affect us all the same in ways that make life uncomfortable or difficult at times.

Phobias come to mind as some of the initial ways in which we realize there is something affecting us that we cannot control.   The number one fear is public speaking, and I find that far easier to overcome than fear of spiders or snakes or frogs.

For me childhood was full of phobias, mainly with the same cause.   When I was six I was mauled by a black lab and badly scarred.   After that time I developed not only a fear of dogs, but a bad case of claustrophobia.   This resulted in my inability to sit still in the dentist chair or ride in elevators.   I guess this will happen when a very large dog latches onto your face.

I got over my fear of dogs and dentists but I'm still fairly claustrophobic.   I can ride in elevators but I get a little anxious in small airplanes and MRI machines.   Oddly enough one of the worse places for me is in those tiny airplanes when the drink service cart comes through.

Since I always sit on the aisle, for obvious reasons since I don't like heights either, I am inevitably stuck for a good 10-15 between the person next to me and the drink cart. That and being smacked on the arm by an absent minded flight attendant is a constant hazard for me.

As you can see, we all have something that makes us uncomfortable, but for those who are rarely comfortable in their own skin or within their own mind I hope that we can be kind and nonjudgmental, because they suffer enough.