The article below was written by Shannon Royce, who deals with this issue every day. She has a child with a mental illness. It’s right on point on why we must address mental health now. You can read more of Susan’s writing at http://chosenfamilies.org
Like the rest of the nation, I watched in horror as the tragedy of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre broke on Friday. The unthinkable, the unspeakable had happened. Again.
Like the tragedy in Arizona in January, 2011, the tragedy in Colorado in July, 2012, we now have another loss of devastating impact. The innocents of Newtown, 20 beautiful children, will never flower. We will never see the doctor, teacher or athlete who could have been. And six adults lost their lives seeking to protect them and their classmates.
The loss is unimaginable. We grieve from a distance. The families and community grieve intimately.
And then it begins. The same discussion of gun control we saw in the aftermath of Arizona and Colorado. Those who would make political hay out of this tragedy. An opportunity for them to press their perspective with new fervor.
And then I saw this article of a Mom in crisis rolling around social media this weekend.
And I agree with this writer that it is time. How many more tragedies must we have before we consider the issue of mental health in America? And closer to home, how many more tragedies must we endure before we consider the role of the church for families in mental health crisis?
How should the church engage these issues? Not just after they happen but before they happen. What would Jesus do? We are His body. What should we do?
We need to understand better what happens when mental health challenge and evil meet. What happens when disability mingles with sin. We see the devastating results. We need to consider what we can do to prevent them before they occur.
Two years ago I founded a ministry for families living with hidden disabilities. ChosenFamilies.org is a Biblical worldview ministry for families living with those disabilities that don’t show on the outside with any physical marker. There is no wheel chair, no assistance dog that might indicate this is an individual who might require our assistance or accommodation. Yet there is a deeply life affecting disability even still.
Hidden disabilities cover the Autism spectrum; those with mental health concerns such as bipolar disorder, depression, Schizophrenia; those with neurological concerns such as Epilepsy or Tourette’s. Each of these disabilities is deeply life affecting for the individual and the family who loves him or her.
Clearly there are distinctions between those on the Autism Spectrum, those with mental health concerns, and those with neurological disorders. But the thing they have in common is they each are hidden from obvious view. They tend to be misunderstood. We don’t know how to respond to them. They make us uncomfortable.
And we tend to avoid that which makes us uncomfortable. We are busy. Our calendars are full. Full of good things. Important priorities.
I am reminded of the man who fell into trouble as he went to Jericho. The church leaders who saw him did not throw a rock at him. They did not curse him. They took no deliberate action to harm him.
They just walked past on the other side of the road.
Jesus commended the man who stopped, took notice, and got involved. He said the good Samaritan was our example of how to respond. We need to stop, take notice, and get involved. This is not about programs, though programs may be fine. This is about personal engagement.
We are called as the body of Christ to engage the fallen and broken world with the grace and power of the Gospel of Christ. That includes those with mental health concerns.
Shannon Royce is president & C.E.O. of ChosenFamilies.org, a non-profit organization for families living with hidden disabilities. She is an attorney, marathoner and cancer survivor who lives with her husband and two sons in the D.C. area. She is a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid who formerly worked with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.