He Gives More Grace

I dropped off my son yesterday afternoon at his assisted living home and the tears immediately began to flow. It isn’t always like this, but some days it hits me hard. Grief mixed with guilt, a stubborn feeling that tells me I’m not doing enough. A reminder that I can’t fix this thing called serious mental illness. I can’t make it better for my son, for others. Inside I want to scream out again about how much I hate schizophrenia! You are a blatant liar, an insidious thief! You rob people of clear thoughts, enjoyment of relationships, and the every-day things us “able minded” folks take for granted! I hate nothing like I hate YOU!

This morning I read Psalm 72 in my Bible and God breaks through the muck and mire, I see a king named David asking God for a heart like his own. One that loves justice and righteousness, to be a defender of the poor and needy, a refreshment to others. And I see a picture of what our great King Jesus is really like.

“Give your love of justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son. Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.” - Psalm 72:1-2

I’m hit square by the reality that I am so unlike God. I’m hit square in those words right there in scripture that God sees my disabled son and He cares for him fiercely like no other can. I also see how God loves and wants to refresh me.

“May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass, like the showers that water the earth. “ - Psalm 72:6

I’m struck by what David is really asking here, he is really asking for death. To die to self, dreams, a life of ease. He’s asking for death from seeking applause and for the crowds to think well of him. He’s asking for a life that seeks to honor God with what is near and dear to our great King’s own heart. Because death to self actually leads to life. Could it be that God wants to use my weakness to revive me for something better too?

Left to myself, I just want things to be comfortable. I want this suffering to end. And I think about how it’s easy to speak up about injustice and fight in the public square. But what do I do when God wants me to be patient again? When my schedule is interrupted? When I drop off my son at his home through grieving tears? When fears assail me like crashing waves? When I want to seek refuge on social media and Netflix binges? Dying is hard.

How can I endure when I’m lacking so much? How can I have God’s heart and grow?

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” - James 4:6

I read on in James and see that God gives more grace. And he keeps on giving and giving, a never ending supply of grace. All God asks is that I acknowledge my weakness in humility. Paul tells the church at Corinth that weakness is actually strength. God’s grace is enough. Not only enough, but he gives more of it. Wave after relentless wave.

But do I reach for it?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I will never be the perfect and just King. There is only One and through his life, death, and resurrection, Christ dresses me in his perfect robe of righteousness. Yet in this broken world and weak vessel I remain. At the same time this is also amazingly true: his grace is available for every temptation, grief, and failing. God hasn’t taken away my son’s ongoing suffering or changed the injustice of a broken mental illness treatment system, but I need to remember that His grace is sufficient. And as I remember, I turn to him through prayer and opening of his Word, through repentance and through rest, because he always gives more grace.



Your Child in a Psychiatric Hospital

This is the second of a two part blog series on “What It’s Like to Go Through Psychiatric Hospitalization.” Today we are sharing the insightful and informative piece by Laura, a parent of someone with a serious mental illness. You can read her son’s perspective on what it’s like to experience hospitalization here (with permission, last names withheld).

Our son was insistent: He had to fly to CERN in Switzerland, he had to announce his scientific findings at the Geneva Convention. Would we take him to the airport? My husband and I deflected the best that we could, even as Zeppy’s agitation grew. The next morning, we woke up to discover that Zeppy was gone. He had walked to town in the middle of the night – 15 miles away.

If your child has a serious mental illness, at some point you may face a crisis that is more than you can handle at home. Maybe she is talking seriously about suicide. Maybe his anger is turning to violence. Or perhaps, like Zeppy, your child is so delusional he might come to harm accidentally. At these times, medicine and therapy may not be enough.

Before starting his current medication, our son was hospitalized 5 times in 4 years. As a result, we grew increasingly better at discerning when to seek in-patient care. The first time we encountered such a crisis, our normally-quiet son was raging with emotion. We were new to the area and decided to seek help from the pastors at our local church. After listening to our son shout profanities for hours – in the church office – we received some wise advice: “You should take him to the emergency room.” It seems obvious now, but the thought that Zeppy was suffering from a medical condition never crossed our mind.

Getting to (and through) the Emergency Room

Normally, the ER is the gatekeeper to commitment in a psych hospital. But how do you get your child to the ER, especially if he is larger than you are? We were fortunate in that Zeppy generally cooperated in going to the hospital. One time we bribed him with an ice cream sandwich; another time we pretended to take him to the airport, playing along with his delusion. At least once, Zeppy was in such distress that he asked to go to the hospital. Even so, those drives were nerve-wracking. We constantly worried that he would jump out of the moving car.

As we became more experienced, we spoke with local law enforcement about our options in the event Zeppy refused to go to the ER. This is a terrible thing to think about. Once you call 911, you have no control over the situation. And because some symptoms of mental illness appear threatening, it is possible your son or daughter will be harmed by the police. Our hope was that, by speaking with local enforcement in advance, the risk of someone getting hurt in a crisis would be reduced. Thank God, we never had to execute “Plan B” and call for back-up. Nonetheless, I am glad my husband insisted on having those hard conversations.

At the emergency room, the doctor must assess whether your child meets the legal criteria for psychiatric hospitalization. The most basic standard is “danger to self or others.” Some states also allow psychiatric commitment where the patient is “gravely disabled.” This is a nuanced conversation between doctor and patient. The doctor doesn’t want to get in legal trouble (i.e., a lawsuit for false imprisonment) if she gets it wrong. You may believe with all your heart that your child needs in-patient treatment, and you may share your reasoning with the hospital staff. Ultimately, however, the decision is up to the doctor.

Expect to Lose Control


Once the ER doctor has signed off on commitment to a psych hospital, the medical staff will call around to see which facilities have open beds. The national, chronic shortage of beds in psych hospitals suddenly became personal. We had little choice in where Zeppy was sent – sometimes the facility in town, sometimes a location an hour or more away.

By this point, the ER has taken charge of your child and of the placement process. It sounds very difficult (it is), but your job is to breathe and trust that the staff will get your child to a safe place as soon as they can. Worrying and pestering the staff – always my first impulse – does not help.

If your son or daughter is over 18, you will face additional problems. Under privacy laws, hospital staff generally cannot share the medical information of adult children with their parents, at least not without the patient’s permission. Psychotic or not, by this time your child may be quite angry with you, so don’t expect immediate permission to share information. Especially when you are kept in the dark, it is easy to become frustrated and bewildered.

When it became clear Zeppy’s mental illness was not going away, we spoke to an attorney about a medical power of attorney. We were fortunate in that Zeppy was clear-minded at the time, and willing to sign the appropriate documents. The next time he was hospitalized, this gave us some leverage in getting more information from health care providers -- along with the fact that he was obviously unable to care for himself.

Sadly, some doctors are dismissive of parents, with or without a medical power of attorney. To these doctors, your questions and concerns are irrelevant at best; more likely, you have somehow contributed to your child’s problem. Although you have learned much through painful trial-and-error over the course of your child’s illness, some doctors just don’t care. It doesn’t matter that your child lives with you, that you are caring for him on a day-to-day basis, or that you are the one paying for the hospitalization! You can expect such doctors to make treatment decisions unilaterally, without consulting or even informing you, based on whatever new drug is being pushed by the pharmaceutical companies. That’s just the way it is.

A Holding Place

So your child has finally been admitted to the psych hospital. As a first order of business, you may be asked to drop off several changes of clothes. Shoelaces, belts, and strings (for example, on hoodies) are not allowed. I tried to offer books, but these were generally ignored by the staff and Zeppy alike. The first time Zeppy was admitted to the psych hospital, I asked whether he could bring his clarinet – a request quickly denied, of course. (This shows my own frame of mind at the time, that I was worried about him falling behind in band!)

In my experience, psych hospitals are like an unimaginative, indoor day camp, just with doctors and medicine. Patients mill around aimlessly, and sometimes the caretakers do as well. At one hospital, we had to check the shoes to distinguish patients from staff – staff were allowed to have laces. Expect your child to be bored.

I suppose there could be some excitement if a patient acts out. However, with modern medicine, this is rare. Any patient in danger of disruption will be heavily medicated. While distressing, this may be what your child’s brain needs to heal. I had to keep reminding myself that our efforts to help Zeppy outside the hospital had been exhausted, and that this was a safe holding place for him while we regrouped.

Keeping In Touch

Communication with your child is restricted, especially since the hospital will normally confiscate all cell phones and electronics. (Many times, I was not allowed to bring my own phone into the hospital). The hospital will have scheduled phone time and visiting hours. Don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t want to talk with you. And even if your child wants to talk, don’t be surprised if the lines are tied up during phone time.

As much as I love my son, visiting was a big downer. Sometimes Zeppy didn’t want to see me, or was indifferent to my visit, which made me sad. Many times I saw no improvement in his condition, which also made me sad. The physical environment was depressing, and there was often not much to talk about (other than his delusions). I tried not to feel guilty about skipping visitation for a day or two. We wanted to remind Zeppy that we cared, but I also couldn’t spend all my time crying.

I don’t mean to sound callous, but your child’s time in the mental hospital is the perfect time for you to rest and recuperate. You probably went through great stress during the weeks leading up to hospitalization, and there will be more stress waiting for you after your child is discharged. It’s ok to feel some relief once your child has been admitted (I did). Take advantage of the fact that, for now, your child is safe and not your responsibility. Spend some quality time alone, or with your spouse, or with good friends. If possible, schedule a short getaway weekend. The change in perspective will boost your morale for the long haul (and it is a long haul).

Don’t Expect a Breakthrough

Most psychiatric hospitalizations are short, 7-10 days. This is because - surprise surprise - insurance generally covers that length of time. Although there may be some group or individual talk therapy available, the medical staff will focus primarily on medication.

Since your child’s current medications were not sufficient to prevent a crisis, the supervising doctor will likely change them. As an outpatient, when you change medicine, you must spend several weeks tapering the old drug down, and another several weeks tapering the new drug up. But in the hospital, under close observation, the doctors can be more aggressive.

I have found that, while 7-10 days may be enough time to make sure your child does not have a bad reaction, it is not enough time to see whether the new medicine actually works. The psych hospital will give you a break from the crisis, but don’t expect a breakthrough.

In addition, continuity of care can be a big problem when your child is in the psych hospital. Because our brains are so unique, they respond in unpredictable ways to treatment. Your child’s regular doctors can be a wealth of hard-won information on your child’s condition. Yet the attending physician at the psych hospital, who may be seeing your child for the first time, is unlikely to consult your child’s regular doctors.

Zeppy had a wonderful doctor who worked hard for several years to find the best possible drug combination. However, this doctor was not affiliated with a psych hospital. When Zeppy was hospitalized, he was under the control of a completely different doctor. Two times, the attending physician at the psych hospital abruptly changed Zeppy’s medicine to brand new drugs. Not only were these drugs insanely expensive, they did not work for Zeppy. After his release, we were forced to change his drugs again, with his regular doctor, the slow way.

Eventually, circumstances forced us to change doctors. This time, the doctor was also the attending physician at a psych hospital affiliated with his medical group. It was wonderful to have continuity of care during a crisis situation. Because this doctor knew Zeppy’s medical history, and because he had a relationship with our whole family, he was able to come up with a treatment plan that was sustainable after discharge.

Release from the Psychiatric Hospital

After the allotted 7-10 days, the doctor will generally pronounce your child ready to go home. Your child may be somewhat calmer and quieter, as a result of the additional medication and boring hospital routine. Your child may also be on his best behavior, at least until release is certain. This does not mean he is “all better.”

It is extremely important to schedule an appointment with your child’s regular doctor as soon as possible. Your child’s regular doctor knows his history and hopefully recognizes what is “normal” for your child. He or she will be able to evaluate the medicine changes, and to make further adjustments.

Re-starting therapy with your child’s regular therapist can also be helpful. Unfortunately, we were not able to find a therapist willing to work with Zeppy in his post-hospital phase (they felt he did not have sufficient insight into his problems). This was quite frustrating -- I spent a lot of time banging my head against the limits of modern psychotherapy. We did receive great benefit from a therapist willing to work with us, the parents, instead of Zeppy directly.

For us, the post-hospitalization period was almost – not quite but almost – as difficult as the pre- hospitalization period. It generally took a month or longer for Zeppy’s psychosis to fade, and for him to get used to the new drug regimen. Nonetheless, the short break of not being personally responsible for Zeppy’s well-being was helpful by itself. And the whole family, especially Zeppy, gained a renewed focus on staying away from the hospital as long as possible.




A Christian Caregiver's Identity

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Recently, I deleted my personal Twitter account. It was no small decision and the cause for a good degree of consternation. I had 900+ followers and I fought hard for each and every one of them. In the end, the increasing vitriol displayed in this powerful space day after day brought me to ultimately disconnect.

But, it didn’t last long. I found that I couldn’t hold back from giving voice to the plight of the seriously mentally ill even here with Twitter’s limitations (or perhaps it’s just as basic as my lack of self control). At any rate, I went back and created a new account. I’m currently up to a whopping 8 followers now! Hooray for me.

I’ll admit, it’s been a humbling experience. It’s also been revealing. I love advocacy, I’ll never stop speaking up. But it’s not ultimately who I am, it’s simply one of many things I’m privileged to do. This seeming insignificant decision in my life begged a deeper question however: Where am I finding my identity?

During the past decade I’ve shifted into many roles as a Caregiver - from crisis coordinator to resource administrator, from guardian to grocery shopping assistant, from holding on for dear life to letting go, from mom to non-profit president, from biting my tongue (yes, there were a few times…) to advocating politically. Yet, it took a little Twitter disconnect to realize I needed to remind myself of the most important reality in my life: who I truly am in Christ.

Remembering My Way Back.

Our culture is bombarding us daily with images of strong, powerful, and successful people. If we are not careful as Christians, this can gnaw away at our identity. Add to this the battle raging within our own hearts and it’s easy to see how we can lose ourselves along the way.

Here’s the good news though, even when I lose sight of who I am, God never loses sight of me.

We all struggle with a good degree of identity theft, but for the Caregiver of someone battling a serious mental illness (or any other disability or sickness, for that matter) the lines are blurred significantly. The very nature of the illnesses themselves, coupled with the chaos of a broken mental health system, demand a lot from us, to say the least!

So what’s the remedy for a Christian caregiver like me? I think it’s as simple as taking some time to remember who I am in Christ and taking some time to interact with my Savior about how these truths translate into my daily life, even on social media.

A Helpful Tool

Jerry Bridge’s book, “Who Am I” is easy to read and can be used as a short devotional each day. There are only 8 chapters so you can finish in just over a week. Resist the temptation to dismiss the subject matter as old, familiar truths. We all forget, someone even said, “we leak.” What could be better than filling ourselves up with the rich truths about our identity in Christ! So drink up weary Caregiver!

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Our church is beginning a new sermon series on this very subject. You can view them online here soon. I’m looking forward to percolating over this topic. I’ve already begun remembering using Jerry Bridge’s book above and a renewed sense of peace and hope are springing up in my heart. I pray that for you as well.

If you are not a believer and you’re wondering what all of this talk of identity in Christ is about, check out a previous post here that explains the good news of the gospel. Whether you check it out or not, thank you for reading and supporting the work of helping families and individuals struggling against serious mental illness.

What It's Like to Go Through Psychiatric Hospitalization from a Patient's Perspective

This is the first of a two part blog series on “What It’s Like to Go Through Psychiatric Hospitalization.” We will be sharing the insightful and informative writing projects of Zeppy and Laura, a patient and a parent (with permission, last names withheld).

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In the Inpatient Facility – Zeppy

Being in the inpatient facility is, for me, a memory that is tainted with strangely sharp and defined thought patterns that, even now, I am unable to find the origination for.

Being in the inpatient facility (the psychotic/suicide/acute drug crisis ward) is boring, only lit up by the small amenities that are as welcome as they are minor, such as a small amount of candy, soda, and Netflix.

The inpatient facility isn’t for those who have done something wrong. And, it seems that most of the people who work there understand this. Unlike in prison, where I hear that the atmosphere can be vicious and cruel, malevolent and oppressing, the atmosphere of the psych ward is mostly that of confusion and sadness. The schizophrenic-types feed off each other’s babble and strangeness, amplifying their madness while misunderstanding the source. The depressive types say nothing and robotically fill out adult coloring sheets (the ones with complicated, often beautiful and fractal designs). The druggies shake their feet and breathe heavily.

The biggest impression that each facility leaves in one’s mind is of a single color. For one, bright, brilliant hospital white. For another, orange, soft, library-like illumination. For yet another, black and brown accented by doors with wood paneling.

What I experienced in the psych ward is totally different from what other schizophrenics have experienced and will experience. Every system of delusions has a different form, a different shape, a different underlying stimulation and visible symptom map. The primary sensation from one on the inside is that of misunderstanding. Why am I here? What did I do? And even: “where am I?” (Some of my answers to those questions in the moment: “In heaven.” “At the LHC [Large Hadron Collider.]” “In the middle of a tutorial for a ‘The Sims’-esque game played by an alien from another universe who is controlling my every action,” and “floating in a box of nothingness.”)

Whatever the answer, the general feeling is one of misunderstanding and being misunderstood. Of “knowing” that you don’t belong there, and yet not being able to express this to anyone. The staff, mostly comprised of blue-scrubs-wearing nurses, interacts as little as possible with the patients, except to sort out disagreements about chairs and remotes.

One overhears the inner mechanisms of other people’s delusions while in that place. Some people babble incoherently, either with or without a purpose. The end result is one of unreality.

Not only you, but everyone you see is off in the canyons of metaphysical space, experiencing the distortion of their thoughts like gravity distorts spacetime.

I’m sure that there are some good things that are buried underneath the delusion and the confusion. There must be some sort of metaphysical truth about the universe that these babbling crazies must understand, but cannot communicate. It’s like being lost in a forest of sanguine messages from every corner of reality. One tries to understand where they are coming from, and most often that results in a misunderstanding that is amplified by the fragility of the human consciousness when exposed to the unknown.

Lovecraft portrayed it perfectly: when one encounters the inscrutable gods of this reality, they lose all sense of sanity and delve into the depths of their own, dark minds. The psych ward is just the manifestation of the conclusion of this adventure.

Sanctity of Life Sunday: The Seriously Mentally Ill are Image Bearers Too

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This Sunday, January 20, 2019 is Sanctity of Life Sunday. People around the nation will honor the gift of life, from the pre-born, to the elderly and the disabled, through prayer, marches, and gatherings. Why should this matter to us? Because it matters to God. Every person is made in the image of God, Imago Dei.

Every one matters.

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27

In the United States, roughly 4% of the population has some form of a serious mental illness. That’s close to 10 million image bearers. At least 40% of these individuals are receiving no treatment. An even smaller percentage of this group has such severe forms of mental illness that they cannot advocate for themselves. These are the people who currently reside in our prisons and on our streets.

This Sunday, when you gather in your churches, please mention and pray for the seriously mentally ill and their families too. These are the forgotten, untouchables of our day. It’s time to include them in our prayers and advocacy efforts because they are not forgotten or marginalized by God.

Speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves reflects the very heart of God. Join us on this Sanctity of Life Sunday in celebrating and praying for life with dignity for those suffering on the fringe of our society.

Give $5 Worth of Light This Weekend

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It’s that time of year again! Time for our Thanksgiving Give Light weekend. As part of our effort to create bridges in the community to meet the needs of individuals with persistent mental illness, we are holding a mini-campaign of sorts this weekend (Nov. 15-18). Through our partnership with Marc Community Resources we are seeking to provide $100 Fry’s grocery gift cards for hearty Thanksgiving meals to group homes that serve men and women who struggle against a serious mental illness.

Last year we raised $1,500. This was enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals! Let’s see if we can match this and even raise a greater amount for 2018. Are you ready? Let’s give! Simply click on our Donation page and as you check out click “Give Light Campaign.” It’s that simple!

Thank you for your generosity, thank you for giving light to so many who are often marginalized and forgotten right here in our communities.

Discovery: Signs of Serious Mental Illness from a Mother's Perspective

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The following list is not meant to be a diagnostic tool and is not written by a medical professional. It is a collection of snapshots written from a mother’s perspective in an effort to help others. The following observations are not exhaustive, nor conclusive. But taken together, the information could inform you as to whether you see a pattern emerging in your son or daughter that warrants further intervention. Please seek the advice of a medical doctor if you suspect your loved one needs help.

·       Increased agitation. Responding inappropriately to situations. Anger doesn’t fit the crime.

·       Reacts inappropriate to change or a new place they’ve never been before.

·       Has trouble concentrating in school and/or employment.

·       Does not stay focused on a sport or hobby very long.

·       Abrupt, odd mood changes.

·       Increasing at-risk behavior, ie., running away, truancy, drugs, alcohol, stealing.

·       Taking drugs or using alcohol to extremes.

·       Tics like sniffing a lot, blinking. Mumbling.

·       Isolating themselves. Example: when at a family gathering, they lock themselves in a bedroom.

·       Believing that people are thinking or saying things about them or misinterpreting cues. You are certain it is not true.

·       Thinking that they see famous people or people you know when you go out to public places.

·       Have increasing moments where they hear people or animals talking, whispering.

·       Dressing inappropriately, ie., winter clothes in summer and vice versa. Wearing odd, outdated, clashing clothes.

·       Aggression or violence toward family member(s). Singling out a family member and/or believing that person wants to hurt them.

·       Family becomes increasingly afraid, locking doors at night. Afraid to leave pets alone with the child. Afraid to leave child alone.

·       Believes they see objects changing shapes, melting and is not related to drug use.

·       Repetitive behavior (ie., hitting a drum over and over) with a flat affect, staring off.

·       Wanting to take up a hobby that they clearly have no aptitude for.

·       Change in sleeping patterns, not sleeping for a day or two. Sleeping excessively. Increase in these patterns.

·       Grandiose ideas about themselves, extreme energy at inappropriate times.

·       Laughing inappropriately, emotionally inappropriate responses.

·       Taking longer to respond to a question you ask. Needs the question to be repeated.

·       Neglect of personal hygiene, lack of concern for smell/ appearance.

·       Opposite of neglecting hygiene: taking an excessive amount of showers, brushing teeth over and over.

·       Inability to follow instructions with more than one step.

The information on P82 Project Restoration, Inc. is not medical advice. Do not rely on it. Discuss with your medical doctor. 

Holiday Viewing & Reading: Don't Forget our Weakest Citizens

Happy 4th of July! Or, as I affectionately call it, "Happy evening-on-the-couch-with-my-distraught-beagles Day" (gotta love those fireworks...let freedom ring!).

Whether you are a stay at home pet owner, or someone who braves the heat for patriotic celebrations tomorrow, here is a selection of media pieces I've collected over the past few weeks that you can take a moment or two...(maybe three)...to peruse this Independence Day.  Each story is related to America's plight of individuals and families who are suffering against serious mental illness:

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As our nation’s birthday draws near, we can be grateful for our freedoms. But let’s not forget that God is merciful and has eyes for the poor and afflicted. We have been given much grace and we must use our strength and material wealth to help those who cannot help themselves. Celebrate the 4th of July, but remember the weak and helpless.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness shall go before you;

the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard."

Isaiah 58:6-8

Mental Illness and Violence. It's Time for Compassionate Courage.

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Every time there is a public tragedy involving an individual with a serious mental illness, many well known Mental Health organizations make the predictable statements about how "people who have mental illness are no more violent than others" followed closely by "and they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators." If that truly is the case, then why do we continue to see so many horrendous stories involving violence toward family members? Police? If that is the case then why are families, who have loved ones battling serious mental illness, told to call the police when they reach out to a Crisis line for help? Why do psychiatric nurses have panic buttons and some psychiatric wards have locks? 

I run the risk of being accused of reinforcing "stigma" here. It's not an easy topic and I certainly do not want people to think my loved one is a person to be afraid of.  He most certainly is not, when receiving proper treatment. And there's the key, treatment. People who have untreated serious mental illness can become violent. Is it because they are evil? Or is it the same reason we provide a secure environment with treatment for people suffering from Alzheimer's or Dementia?

Delusions and hallucinations are scary things. They tell the brain something that is not true. Imagine believing that someone is out to get you or that voices are sending you messages through the television. Psychosis is real and it damages the brain causing loss of cognition. Not receiving treatment for psychosis is akin to not receiving CPR and life saving medications for a heart attack. And yet, we continue to neglect people who suffer this way and somehow expect them to follow the rules of society without our intervention. We cannot continue to downplay the consequences of untreated serious mental illness and bury our heads in the sand leaving this population completely trapped and vulnerable, and yes, leaving our communities at risk.

So, what does that mean for us moving forward? How do we move from ignorance and fear to help and hope? I propose a healthy dose of compassionate courage along with a few practical suggestions: 

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1. Educate Yourself

Do you know where to find help for someone who is experiencing a psychotic break in your area? What if the person doesn't want to get help or doesn't think they need help? What would you do?  In Arizona we've made a cheat sheet of sorts with the main on ramps to services in Maricopa County. Get familiar with the resources available in your area. 

2. No Resources? Advocate!

Visit, call, and write to your legislators! Connect with other advocates, or begin your own group. It only takes one to start. In Arizona you can visit rescuesmi.com to learn more about the issues and suggested state policies to implement. For national issues, visit mentalillnesspolicy.org.

3. Attend a Crisis Care Team Training for Faith Groups

If you are a member of a local church, or place of worship, consider joining us for our soon to be quarterly Crisis Care Team training here in Arizona. We will equip you to intentionally, and compassionately, work together in your faith group to come along side of people and families at risk. We have a special focus on the issue of serious mental illness.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of action items, but it is a starting place. Join us by taking those first steps toward helping people with compassionate courage. We can do this, and we can definitely do it together.