May 17th Meditation
“When he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down before him. Then he shouted, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most Hight God? I beg you, don’t torture me! He said this because Jesus had already commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.” Luke 8:28-29
I stood in the parking lot as the man talked in circles. He was quite certain if I prayed over him then he would be made well. I wished with all my heart it was true. This was not the first time I stood with a total stranger who had made their way to the church looking for healing. Healing would come but not through the miracle prayer he was seeking. I prayed with him before the Sheriff’s Deputy took him to connect with needed resources which could aid his hope for healing.
Whenever such interactions occur, I often think about this story of Jesus healing the Gerasenes demoniac. We are quite confident that many of the people possessed by “demons” in the scriptures were people living with what we now call mental illness. Mental illness impacts approximately 1 in 5 people in our country, including teens and children. Severe mental illness impacts 1 in 25 people. Since the pandemic more people have reported symptoms of mental illness.
We, as people of faith, can play a role in the healing process for others living with mental illness. Jesus, throughout scripture, showed compassion and healing for people overcome by their “demons.” Compassion should always lead our response to care for others. Jesus’ compassion came without judgement and stigma. We can approach others with the same compassion and non-judgement.
Information is plentiful for us to gain knowledge in ways we can help. A good place to start is understanding some of the myths around mental health. The “Rural Psychiatry Blog” offers us insight from their March 2023 post of four common myths. I chose this particular list due to our rural setting and as I have encountered these belief myths before.
1: Mental Illness is a weakness: Stigma arises when we associate mental illness with weakness – particularly in ourselves. Mental illness, like any other chronic condition, requires treatment and consistent care. Our brains are the most complex organ in the body so sometimes treatment is a bit more complicated to be effective. Seeking support and treatment is a true sign of strength.
2: People with mental health issues are dangerous: In reality, only about 3% of people with mental illness are at risk of committing violent crimes. People with mental illness are actually at an 11% increase of falling victim to violence. “This is especially true for individuals who are vulnerable due to lack of housing, money, safety, access to quality care, and other socio-economic factors.”
3: Medication is the only way to treat mental illness: Medications do help with treatment. Other forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy, are also beneficial. Often a combination of medications and other treatments are the most beneficial treatment as opposed to medication alone.
4: You can tell someone has a mental illness by their appearance: “Without treatment, mental illness can feel like an ongoing internal battle for individuals experiencing it. However, there is no “look” associated with any particular type of disorder or diagnosis. We often find the opposite is true: people put on a “brave face” to hide their mental health challenges out of fear of rejection or discrimination. While there are warning signs of mental illness, like sleep loss, mood changes, and apathy, you cannot tell someone has a disorder solely from their appearance.”
We can offer understanding and compassion to each other as we learn and find ways to for all to connect in faith.
*Image credit: Created on Canva © by Rev. Wendy Schindler-Chasney
Figures from CDC on Mental Health
“Four Myths of Mental Illness” from Rural Psychiatry Associates website.