The Time is Ripe for Change

I’ve gotten to know Dr. Steve Grcevich, President and Founder of Key Ministry, a little in the past year, and greatly appreciate his work.  He and the extended Key Ministry team are trailblazers in the movement towards the Church figuring out how to love people no matter their struggle, disability or pain.  Our culture – even if not yet the Church – is more than ready to accept and appreciate people of varying abilities.

The following article is an excerpt of an email sent to Dr. G, describing how the Church has failed miserably in loving this young woman, who just wants – no needs – Jesus’ love via other Christians.

Okay, after you see yourself in the poor behavior in this article (and most of us who have been in church for any length of time will see ourselves), think action:  how can my church reach out to those who need extra patience, extra grace?  Whatever the reason for the ‘otherness’ of these people, they are made in God’s image too.  They have incredible gifts of creativity and love to share with the Church and the world – if the world will take time to listen and love.

Much more to come in the next few months on practical ways to love all people – even the ones who are different from me.

Fitting in at church…by Anonymous
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Diagnosis: Freedom

Logic failed me when I was diagnosed with depression.  Taking a little white pill was a seeming spiritual failure; somehow I was a better person and Christian without the diagnosis and medication, even though I couldn’t sleep.  I tried everything – I mean everything – to be able to sleep.  It’s a minor miracle that my marriage survived the 3.5 years of this personal not-insignificant tribulation.

Jesus said “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  The truth frees you to address the problem head-on, correctly, swiftly.

Can you handle the truth?   Here are a few freedoms that come with a mental health diagnosis:

Odd behavior: explained

Physical health issues:  discovered and healed

Emotional instability:   regulated and restored

Feelings of inadequacy:  discussed and dealt with in therapy

Fears:  addressed and often resolved

Genetic-based mental health conditions:  understood and treated

Broken relationships:  sometimes mended.  Better understanding of yourself

Fear of being labeled:   people already label you behind your back.  Now you can discuss your condition on your terms, not the terms of others

Fear of hurting other people:  hiding the truth helps no one.  Hiding the truth often hurts others

Fear of revealing abuse:  prevention of abuse and subsequent mental health problems in others

 

Refusal to acknowledge the truth cannot make you free.  Only knowing the truth – taking it into yourself – allows you to change how you are defined, to a person not enslaved by mental illness, but to a person who overcomes a mental illness.

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Because No One Listens to the Crazy Ones

Here’s a powerful article written by Tahani Nelson about her experience at an emergency room, seeking a one-month refill on her anti-depressant medication.  In Tahani’s words, this kind of experience won’t change until “…we, as a society, stop labeling those with mental health issues as anything other than ‘human.’”

Amen.  See the article about Tahani’s experience here.

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Mental Health Help in High Places

Check out this article by Kate Middleton, otherwise known as the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William’s wife, mom of Prince George and Princess Charlotte.  What a terrific affirmation and leap forward in public awareness and support for mental health.

Keep this trend going!  Love your friend with mental illness.  #notcontagious

Perception vs Reality: Mental Illness and Violence

Here’s another set of studies over a long period of time that found a huge disconnect between perception and reality. Contrary to what’s portrayed in media, the vast majority of people with mental illness are NOT violent. To quote two of the studies cited in this report, “…the magnitude of the relationship [between mental illness and violence] is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population…” AND “The discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses stem, in part, from the link between mental illness and violence in the minds of the general public.”

#stopstigma #mentalillness #notcontagious #outsidein
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Changing How People Perceive Depression

It’s unfortunate that this terrific article appeared in the Richmond paper the weekend of Snowstorm Jonas.  Hopefully by now those of you who still take the paper have had a chance to read this article.  I appreciate the honesty and openness of author Ethan Payne, about the importance of helping people struggling with mental disorders, and the equally important task of stopping the stigma.  Much is learned in the dark times of our lives – and much can be gained by helping another person through the darkness.

http://www.richmond.com/life/in-my-shoes/article_379c34ca-f0da-5d5a-8270-fd44e5e24585.html?mode=story

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What’s Going On? Mental Illness Facts

So much is made about violence and mental illness. There is definitely a relationship, but it’s not always what you may think. In fact, people with mental illness are far more likely to be VICTIMS of violence than perpetrators of violence. Most often, the violent behavior of the mentally ill is directed at THEMSELVES. Another word for that is suicide.

Here’s a link to an article published by the American Psychological Association about a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders.  Are you surprised by how few crimes were directly related to symptoms of mental illness?

Thanks for reading the blog! Please love someone with mental illness. He’s not contagious.

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The Positive Effects of Love on Mental Health

Christians and the Church are in the business of loving people, ALL people. When the Church loves mentally ill people well, their mental health is better. It’s true! Here’s a link to an article on The Positive Effects of Love on Mental Health.

When we love those in our midst, those God has allowed to be there, unpredictably good things can happen. Do you want to see what God can do with your love? Join our adventure. Like the Outside In Ministries Facebook page, or signup for our mailing list. Thanks for stopping by!

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Three Legged Stool

I started Outside In 5 short months ago, doing what I do best: research. Google is my dear friend, invented for people like me who crave knowing everything there is to know about what they want to know, and then some. And then finding that there’s no end to what you don’t know!

What hit me square in the face, pretty quickly, is that mental illness in America is currently treated and supported by a broken three-legged stool.

3 legged stool

Sit on a functional three-legged stool, and nothing is more sturdy. Sit on a three-legged stool with one short leg, or a broken leg, or worse yet – a missing leg, and it’s impossible to balance. There’s no way to rest on such a chair.

That’s what caring for mental illness is like in America, right now.

The three legs are Government, Private Sector/Healthcare, and the Church. Three pillars in our culture. Three very different roles, functions, responsibilities. And when it comes to caring for the mentally ill, one of those legs is almost non-existent.

Local, state and federal government agencies spend tremendous resources to help the mentally ill. Countless advocacy groups, medical practitioners, therapists and hospitals make it their life’s work to care for the mentally ill.

Both of these groups (government and private sector) are REACTIVE. Both wait for a mentally ill person to seek their services.

The Church is in the unique role of being present in peoples’ lives in a way the government and private sector never can be – and never should be. The Church has relationships with people, creating families of faith communities across our land.

One of the things the Church does best is help people in crisis. Jesus healed people physically, and healed their deeper, spiritual needs as well. Jesus’ followers love people exceptionally well in crises such as a cancer diagnosis, or the death of a loved one. But a huge opportunity is present – as yet not thoroughly fulfilled – in helping those with mental illness.

When the church allows itself to be the third leg of the stool – the only one with the relationships and deep care of the people within their communities to learn how to be PROACTIVE, meeting people right where they or their families are in their struggles with mental illness, then the three-legged stool of mental illness care in America will be stable, sturdy, fully supportive.

What about your church? Is your church willing to be a sturdy reach out to the mentally ill in your midst? Outside In Ministries can help you get started.

Christians SHOULD Be Bothered

“As I gradually discovered who my brother was, I learned to accept his differences. It was frustrating at times because it was difficult to feel empathy for his actions, but I grew to love him for who he is instead of who he is “supposed” to be according to society. I was enraged when he was bullied in high school and middle school. It was absolutely disgusting. One of the worst part of Hayden’s Asperger’s is that it is not visible. Many other kids treated him differently because they could not see his“disability;” they simply thought he acted differently. But even if he does act differently, why should he be treated differently? This question has bothered me ever since.”

www.aspergerexperts.com

 

Christmas Came Early – Outside In Ministries is now a tax-exempt public charity!

Amazing how one little letter from the IRS can change so much!  Realistically though, ANY letter from the IRS impacts the life of the recipient – often not for good.  Praising God for the lightening speed with which the tax-exempt status was granted and the attached letter was received.

Much more from Outside In Ministries in 2016!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Level Ground

A treasured moment in my memory is the first time I heard the expression “the ground is level at the foot of the Cross.”  What a vivid image of not only my smallness in relation to the sacrifice of Christ – but the same smallness of every other person, ever.

On rare occasion, I have witnessed or participated in an event that pulsated with humility, of shared common experience or beliefs.  Rich or poor, white or black, fat or thin, all these melted away.

A few weeks ago, I had the profound joy of such an experience.  One hundred or so people met on a semi-dreary fall night.  After some business was addressed, the keynote speaker gave his presentation.  World-renowned, he was entertaining, educational, yet no greater than anyone in the room.  He patiently answered questions on a range of topics, and would have continued if the meeting organizer had not drawn the meeting to a close, owing to the lateness of the hour.

Afterwards, people milled about, strangers becoming acquaintances and colleagues becoming friends.  I connected with several people who opened little pieces of their lives to me; I did the same for them.

That night was one of the most intimately spiritual moments in my life.

You may be surprised to know that this was not a church meeting.  The speaker was more than likely not Christian, and nothing was spoken of the spiritual aspect of life at all.

It was a local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) meeting.

God’s Word is truth, and any experience which affirms the truth of God’s Word has the ability to be intensely spiritual.  Try visiting the Grand Canyon.  Seeing your newborn child, or grandchild.  Saying good-bye to a loved one, passing into eternity.

I have no doubt that there were some people on welfare and food stamps in that room.  I have no doubt there were some who live among the finest neighborhoods in Richmond.  Some, like a young man I met, seem to have no religious faith.  Others, like me, I suspect have a faith deeper than they ever envisioned, in part because of the unifying reason for NAMI.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.  When I grab hold of that truth – and you grab hold of that truth, and see that we’re really all the same – every last one of us on the planet – who knows what we can do in the name of Christ?

We might just make this world a better place for those who are marginalized by mental illness.  What a great place to start.

An Entire Belgian Town Gets What Outside In Is About

Compassionate Belgian Town Housing The Mentally Ill Since 15th Century

The town of Geel has been a sanctuary with a tradition of hospitality toward anyone with mental illness since the 1400s – and such ground-breaking integration was the key to healing success. Resident families volunteer their homes to people affected by mental disabilities by signing agreements with health authorities to let them move in. After families… read more…

Boots on the Ground

Ever heard the phrase “too many Indians, not enough Chiefs?”  Maybe not recently, in our uber-PC world.  But the meaning behind the expression is that there are plenty of workers, but too few leaders.

I contend a different problem exists when it comes to helping individuals and families struggling with mental health concerns within the Church.

I’ve spent considerable time researching the resources available to help churches understand the scope of mental health issues within their own communities, and to translate that understanding into action.  Even more time has been spent researching what existing local Church and denominational resources are available.  Resources includes training, tools and experts.

Except for faith community-specific implementation plans, all the information churches could ever want about the reality of mental illness and how to help is already available.  The information is not neatly cataloged in a ready-to-digest fashion, but it’s in cyberspace and in the countless private sector and governmental organizations that work on mental health issues.  Even church organizing bodies (think denominational leadership) are already addressing, albeit infrequently, the fact of mental illness in our midst.

The only missing ingredient is church people willing to be boots on the ground.

No matter how great a political or military campaign looks on paper, the success of the plan hinges on the people engaged to implement.

Don’t know how to get started?  That’s what Outside In is for.  We’ll help gather the resources and make a plan specific to your faith community.  But the heart of this ministry is to just love people where they are, warts and all.  The Church is at its best when it loves people at their worst.

So be willing to be an Indian.  Someone whose sandals I am worthy to untie said the servant’s life – the boots on the ground in the middle of the battle – is the real path to greatness.