In my last article I left you thinking about how to “give people a break” as you learn how to meet them at their point of need. Most of us don’t recognize people with mental illnesses unless of course they’re just “way” out there on a limb. Meaning seeing them on street corners mumbling and talking to themselves, or just exhibiting what we call “crazy” behavior. We often just see these people as having some emotional baggage that we’d like to see them shed as quickly as possible, not having a clue that if they only knew how to shed the baggage they’d gladly be done with it. More and more I’m encountering people with issues, which at first sight may only appear as emotional “stuff;” however, upon closer look the mental illness surfaces. Many of these people simply don’t understand their issue may be termed a mental illness because often they have not received a diagnosis. Care givers, ministry leaders, paradigm shifters, and professional clinicians’ responsibility is to help these people overcome both their emotional and mental issues. For those without clinical backgrounds you may be thinking “but I’m not trained to treat mental illness.” You may not be a trained clinician, but helping someone heal from some trauma they have experienced in the past will often address the mental issue as well.
This is what I’m saying; many people just need to be healed from past traumatic experiences which brought them to a place of chronic depression, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder. You may not be trained in the mental health field, but you can certainly listen to their issue, either helping them resolve some of it, or referring them to a more experienced professional. For instance, if a person is still reliving and rehashing a broken relationship that happened five or six years ago, you may be able to help them realize it was a toxic relationship and how much better off they are without that person in their life. Helping them walk through a divorce situation may be a bit stickier, but employing various healing techniques is a key, whether that be a simple healing and/or deliverance prayer, meeting with a group, referring them to therapy, or just allowing them to process out loud. Oftentimes people simply need an empathetic ear.
Overcoming emotional or psychological trauma may not be an easy task, and may take a while, however, watching someone heal and change their mindset and their heart is absolutely rewarding. Most importantly, we must stop putting stigmas on mental illness. Stop cracking jokes about your uncle, cousin, nephew, sister, or brother being bipolar. Bipolar disorder is real and that person already has enough to deal with simply knowing they won’t just wake up in the morning and the behavior is gone. Let’s become more mindful of the people we associate with. Let’s learn to honor them even if they appear to behave differently. Lastly, help them recognize there is a light at the end of their tunnel.