The Mental Health Journey

Good morning

A year ago I wrote a piece about mental health that inspired a group of women in the church and community to found a mental health support group hosted out of Frist United. At our meeting in February we will celebrate our first year anniversary. During the year we have opened some doors and partnered with a variety of organizations in the community; we have tried to create a safe space for people who are dealing with mental health issues to gather, tell their story and support one another along the way and we have had some fun on the journey. Today I give thanks to the women who joined me in the venture and am ever grateful for their dedication and commitment. I also give thanks for the people who have allowed me to be part of their journey as a result of this – amazing, strong, gifted and beautiful, each one.

While we have made a slight dent in the system I am reminded, yet again, that there are countless numbers of people who struggle every day just to keep their heads above water and for whom there seems to be no help. I am also keenly aware of the number of children and youth who are filled with despair, walking in darkness and feeling very much alone. I do not have statistics to prove it but it certainly seems to me that this is on the rise. Just this past weekend Mark shared with me that one young person killed themselves in our community and a second attempted to but had their attempt intercepted by friends. The effects of this are far reaching and the pain encompasses an entire community.

This morning , as I sit at my computer, I again wonder how I can bring light into the midst of such darkness. I know that there is no definitive answer to my questions. I know that there are many things that need to happen simultaneously to provide what is needed – an increase in funding that provides qualified counselors ; access to these resources for people in all walks of life regardless of economic status; more open discussion and more safe places for people to gather for support and care…. Just to mention a few. And so I continue to offer an ear to listen, a hand to hold and someone with whom to share the journey. I continue to advocate for better services and add more voice whenever I can.

A few days ago, my daughter posted her picture on her Facebook page with the following quote

“I will not be another flower, picked for its beauty and left to die. I will be wild, difficult to find and impossible to forget.” ~ Erin Van Vuren

When I read it my heart soared to know that my daughter has grown into a person with such a wonderful self image and a confidence that enables her to be who she is called to be. I also began to imagine what the world would be like if we were able to impart this kind of attitude and self confidence to all our children.

Then I began to think about the part that faith can play in the journey. There are many passages, stories, words of wisdom from both our sacred and on-going story that can bring peace to the soul and strength for the journey. Certainly, we are reminded again and again that we are not alone. One passage in particular that comes to mind for me is found in the Psalms. Psalm 139 says:

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.

Blessings

Valerie

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