GA-1523 Welcome and Support for Mental Health

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I stood, as did most of the General Assembly voting delegates.  In a touching personal testimony from the floor of debate came an endorsement.  The speaker asked for those who have themselves or have family members with mental illness and/or mental health disorders to please stand.  As visions of my deceased grandmother filled my mind and a familiar lump caught in my throat, I stood.

I don’t know exactly why, I have heard anecdotal evidence to the point, but my grandparents are of the generation that never spoke about mental health struggles. Therefore, we grandchildren did not know that she suffered and was medicated for depression since my father was born.  There is no denying it.   There is a stigma.  Cultural literacy has increased; yet old fears remain.

“Will people judge me?” “Can I function as a healthy parent?” “Will I lose my job?” “Can I ever qualify for a promotion?” “Am I a burden to my family?” These are but a handful of questions I have heard uttered from the lips of friends, family members, and parishioners who are diagnosed with what is often a hidden ailment.  Statistically, 20% of adults experience a mental illness in a given year, and 20% of teenagers experience a severe mental illness in the United States; and yet mental illness and/or mental health disorders remain unwelcome conversation even in the sacred confines of the church.

Every time there is a mass shooting in America, a debate kicks off between gun control and mental health, as if only one issue is at fault or we are incapable of dealing with both.  I’ll speak to GA-1521 ON GUN VIOLENCE tomorrow; suffice it today to say, we the Church need to engage in both conversations.  If our country could successfully mobilize to fight two fronts in WWII, then why can’t we mobilize to cure the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our civilized nation?  It is about gun control, and it is about mental health.

Mental health is a human rights issue.  As such, I cannot ignore it.  It affects my neighbor; therefore, it affects me.

In Iowa, whether Governor Bandstand is right or wrong to shift mental health care to private vendors is an important question, but to me what is paramount is whether combined public and private funding will remain stable and yes increase in correlation with population and need.  Anyone who has traveled down the road of mental health treatment will tell you, beyond personal wealth, the greatest factor determining quality of care is your state of legal residence. I pray Iowa remains a state of welcome and support.

Likewise, this is my prayer for First Christian Church: BE IT RESOLVED, that church leaders (lay and clergy) become more knowledgeable so they can fight stigma, be supportive of recovery, and provide information about mental health, recovery and available resources for treatment in our community.  With the volume of mental health professionals in our congregation there is no reason why FCCDM cannot intentionally transform our practice to become a movement of wholeness in this sphere of our fragmented world.  Therefore, I reiterate my request that all of our worship, nurture, and service programming review, study, and to continue on-going efforts aimed at BECOMING A PEOPLE OF WELCOME AND SUPPORT TO PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS AND/OR MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS, GA-1523.

A good second step for FCCDM, and any congregation discerning their follow-up of GA-1523, might include congregational or group study of Blessed Are The Crazy by Sarah Griffith Lund.

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