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  Mental Health
We are strengthened by the power of the resurrection living within us
Whether a trained health care professional or a lay individual, trying to determine expected behaviors from what might be signs of mental illness is tricky in a majority of cases. No test can let anyone know if there is a mental illness or if the behaviors and thoughts of a person are "normal."
There is a long list of common signs for what is considered a mental illness. The list is long and vague. Health care professionals rely on data compiled in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association publishes that book.
Knowing warning signs can help let you know if you need to speak to a professional. A problem exists with recognizing the warning signs, though. For example, the following is a list provided by NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Health:
·         Excessive worrying or fear
·         Feeling excessively sad or low
·         Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
·         Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable "highs" or feelings of euphoria
·         Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
·         Avoiding friends and social activities
·         Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
·         Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
·         Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
·         Changes in sex drive
·         Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)
·         Inability to perceive changes in one's feelings, behavior or personality (" lack of insight" or anosognosia)
·         Overuse of substances like alcohol or other drugs
·         Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing "aches and pains")
·         Thinking about suicide
·         Inability to carry out daily activities or handle everyday problems and stress
·         Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they're still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:
·         Changes in school performance
·         Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school
·         Hyperactive behavior
·         Frequent nightmares
·         Frequent disobedience or aggression
·         Frequent temper tantrums
After diagnosis, a health care provider can help develop a treatment plan that could include medication, therapy, or other lifestyle changes. I believe under the treatment plan “lifestyle changes,” it should be understood our relationship with God is top of that category.
If, while reading that list of warning signs, you found yourself in there, welcome to the club. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 5 people has a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Virtually everyone knows someone with a mental illness.
The problem is to do away with pain and suffering is to be asking to be something other than human. We are all affected either directly or indirectly by mental health issues. Mental health issues are nothing new. For example, consider from Scripture or secular historical documentation people like David, Solomon, or Herod. It probably wouldn’t be too far a stretch of the imagination to include John the Baptizer or even the Essenes. The list can go on and on.
A considerable problem involving mental health is the unfortunate fact that many people refuse to accept mental illness as a real illness. Brain chemistry contributes to mental illness, so mental illness is not a choice; it is an actual illness. Too often, in my experience, I find people thinking mental illness is just an attitude problem. We, as a culture, need to talk, listen, and learn about mental illness. How we respond to those with mental illness partly depends on what we believe about God. What has happened, unfortunately, because of our culture, we have stigmatized those affected by mental illness. Stigmatized to the point that those suffering, including me, seek professional help as a last resort.
I can’t help but think that we all are guilty of adding to the stigmatization at some point. Have you ever called someone crazy? Did you mean it lovingly and compassionately? We must all stop and think before we use words like nuts, psycho crazy, freak, spastic, basket case, unhinged, screwloose, or maniac. They are demeaning and contribute to stigma.
When I, and many others, speak of mental illness we mean conditions like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, mental disturbances like autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, addictions to alcohol and other drugs. All these conditions affect the same area of the brain and disturb by varying degrees the mental function of cognition, perception, and emotional regulation. The list of warning signs mentioned earlier fits in this list of the more commonly heard disorders or conditions.
My Doctoral Degree is not in medicine. Though while working on my doctoral dissertation, I spent years doing scholarly research on the brain, neuroscience, and resulting functional behaviors. I mean to share only my personal opinion next. Mental health conditions never go away. However, they can all be made manageable. I have great days and occasionally some extremely dark days. Some of my days are overflowing with hope and enthusiasm. Other days exhibit to the world my brokenness.
I found, after many years, what worked and continues to work for me. First, I came to the Cross, admitted to God that I was no longer in control of my thoughts and actions. I acknowledged that I was scared and was tired of trying to fix myself. I confessed my sins and pleaded for His forgiveness and help. He guided me to seek advice from the medical community. My faith and my medical team have made an improvement that I can live with. I reflect on the past year and ask myself if I had more good days than bad days. Since following my advice, I see a vast improvement in my well-being. I had to humble myself before God completely and then swallow my pride and ego again as I accepted help from my medical team.
I know longer react negatively to being stigmatized personally, but I do react when I see it being directed at others. There is no way I, or anyone else, can cover mental health in this short space. So I will do what I believe I am being directed by God to share.
       Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Next, love your neighbor as yourself.
       Think before you speak.
       Talk, listen, and learn about mental illness.
       Remember that mental illness is a real illness and not an attitude problem.
       Love your neighbor as yourself.
       You don’t need to say everything you think.
       God loves everyone – equally.
       If you believe you are suffering, know that God loves you just the way you are. Talk to Him regularly and dismiss the naysayers.
1)    How do you define mental health?
2)    Are there warning signs? If so, what are some?
3)    Why are there so few cases of people affected by mental health issues?
4)    If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health issue, how can you help?
5)    How long does it take to fix a mental health issue like depression?
6)    What can you do to help someone who has a mental illness?
Why does God allow mental health issues?
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