Who Am I?
Hi, my name is Scott and my diagnosis is social anxiety with depression. I take medication daily. I do not know where the feelings come from nor can I explain them. Getting over it or snapping out of it is not an option. When it hits I just hope it passes quickly. Sometimes it lasts for minutes. Other times it lasts for days.
Just because the illness I suffer from is not visible does not mean it is not real.
It is okay to talk about it. It is okay to be honest.
We must #EndTheStigma about mental illness.
Where to Start
The discussion about mental illness has to begin somewhere.
As a retired Soldier it alarms me that 22 Vets commit suicide every day. 22 a day, that is not even counting attempts that do not result in the end of life. If you are a vet and need to talk to someone go to VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Let me start by saying this: If you are struggling you are not alone. Even though you may not think that it is possible there is help available. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ is a great resource and their number is 1-800-273-8255. More information can also be found at: https://www.sprc.org/
As I said earlier the discussion must start somewhere. As with any conversation we must eliminate unnecessary banter. When it comes to mental illness in the church there are basically two schools of thought. We can argue all day over what we believe Scripture says about suicide and the effects it has on where we spend eternity, or we can have open and honest discussions about mental illness.
Unfortunately, there are many Christians that believe that depression, anxiety, and other mental illness show a lack of faith and that a person should pray harder and believe more and their suffering will end. To that, I will say this, having anxiety does not mean that I worry about things too much because I don’t trust God enough. What anxiety does is control every aspect of your life. It can make you feel like you don’t even recognize yourself. It is not something you can control on your own. When we treat mental illness as a faith issue then we miss something very important. If you are suffering from heart disease or diabetes, then no one in their right mind would tell you that you just did not have enough faith and you should pray more about it.
Through the providence of God, we have the modern marvel of medicine to help with these and many other physical illnesses. We also have many medicines that can help with mental illnesses and we must stop stigmatizing those who use them. When mental illness is a faith issue, we create an environment where those who are suffering feel like they cannot be open about what they are suffering with and therefor are pushed further down the cycle. The biggest step we must take is recognizing mental illness as a medical issue and encouraging those who are suffering to seek medical help.
Identifying the Problem
The major problem is that there has been a stigma on mental illness for such a long time that overcoming that stigma will be a massive task. We are creatures of habit and mindset has been engrained in so many people. Reversing this mindset will take time and some brutal honesty. It will take a willingness to change and an open mind to see things that may not seem normal to us.
I can honestly say that I never really understood anxiety or depression until they affected me. I never knew the effect they could have on a person and it did not seem normal to me that someone could be in such a bad mood or sad for no reason at all. Now, I can tell you that it can come from nowhere and just snapping out of it is not an option. There are days that I wake up and have zero drive or desire to do anything. Sometimes it last for a moment and other times it last for days. I cannot explain it because it does not make sense; it just doesn’t work that way. If I stop taking my medicine, then my emotions go berserk and affect my entire life. I pray and I live my life. Having anxiety is not a lack of faith for me; it is an illness and it has to be treated just like any other illness. That does not mean I am any more disconnected from God than someone who is suffering from a broken arm and needs to see a doctor.
You Can Help
Even if you don’t understand what a person is going through or why they are sad or acting down that does not mean you cannot help them. Be a friend, just listen to them. Let them know you are there for them if they need anything. Don’t tell them to snap out of it. Trust me, if it was that simple then none of us would be suffering. This is not a choice. If you know someone who is suffering please encourage them to seek help.
The stats are alarming and can be seen at https://www.sprc.org/scope/attempts. In 2017 almost 1.5 million adults in the U.S. attempted suicide.