One in Five: The Campaign to Change Mental Health - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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March 7, 2017

One in Five: The Campaign to Change Mental Health

“Change mental health”—a slogan given to us by the Campaign to Change Direction is powerful rhetoric. How do you know when someone is in emotional pain? The Campaign to Change Direction gives us five signs: personality change, agitated, withdrawal, poor self-care, and hopelessness. How many times have you walked by someone and not said a word, much less even looked at them? I know that I am just as guilty as anyone. Statistics tell us that more people will commit suicide this year then will die in car crashes. One in five adults experiences a mental health disorder in a year. Can you just imagine that every one out of five people you pass are experiencing a mental health disability? If this is the case, why are we not doing anything to help?

We are so quick to pass judgement. Consider Luke 10:25-37: The Parable of the Good Samaritan. It blows our minds that the priest and the Levite looked at a man in need and walked right by without offering any assistance. Yet, we do the same thing over and over and over again every single day. Maybe we don’t know that the person is hurting. However, it’s so easy to see if someone is agitated, hopeless, withdrawing, not taking care of themselves, or has a personality change. Maybe we even see this in our closest friends and are scared to ask them if they are okay.

I have a passion for mental health because I have experienced issues in my own life. This summer I felt incredibly sad—all the time. I woke up, read my Bible, prayed, listened to Christian music, yet nothing changed. I could not understand why. I would get so frustrated because people would ask me, “What’s wrong?” I always replied, “Nothing is wrong.” There was something completely wrong, but I had no idea what it was. I had no idea why I was sad, so I just said what I needed to say. I faked smiles, laughs, conversations, but inside I constantly felt a hole in my chest that made it hard to breathe.

How would I explain this to people? Everyone looked at me as a strong, independent, Christ-like woman, especially my family. What would they think of me if I told them who I actually was: weak, dependent, lost, and hurt. I believed a horrible lie that I could do everything all on my own, that I could figure out what was wrong with me. I could make myself happy. I told myself the worst lie of all: the closer I am with God the happier I will be. After months of fighting and struggling, only one person knew my secret: my boyfriend. Nobody else could know. But one day he called me and said, “If you don’t tell your mom, then I will.” Finally, through many tears my pride was laid low and I told my mom the truth of what I was feeling.

She loved me. She hurt with me. She cried with me. She did not think I was weird. She did not think something was wrong with me. She wanted to help me. Vulnerability—such an easy word to say, yet hard to practice. This was the beginning of vulnerability in my life with my problems. My life didn’t change instantly. Today, I still struggle with anxiety and depression, and it still embarrasses me. Yet, I’ve discovered that the more people with whom I am vulnerable, the more people accept me and love me. With every person I tell, the less embarrassed I feel.

I’ve learned a lot, and I have a lot to learn. My identity does not revolve around my anxiety or my depression. My identity is in the Lord. I am a child of God. I am loved. I am forgiven. I am worth dying for. I am seated in heavenly places. I am free. Anxiety and depression is in my life, but it is not who I am. It is a journey and not just for me; it is a journey for many people, even on Geneva’s campus. When I share my story about mental health, people share their stories with me. People I used to pass by every day, say “Hey” to, and pass—people I never expected would struggle with mental health issues are struggling. It is much more common than we have trained ourselves to believe.

If you are reading this blog right now then you are one of two types of people: someone who needs help or someone who can help someone who needs it. To the person who needs help: be vulnerable. Do not believe the lies that I did about myself. Do not pretend like you are okay. Do not live life alone—you can’t. Get help. Seek a counselor. Tell your friends. You are loved. The joy of the Lord can be your strength, but that does not mean that you are happy.

To the people who can help someone who needs it: do not walk by them and do nothing. Look for the five signs of mental illness. Do not diagnose, but empathize. Be a good listener. Encourage them. Be their friend. Be the good Samaritan. One in five of the people who you pass every day needs help. One in five people you pass struggled to get out of bed today and not because they were studying all night. One in five people that you passed today smiled at you, and believe me it took every ounce of strength they had left to do it.

Luke 10: 30-37: “In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental illness is real and it is different for everybody. Mental illness is a problem for many people everywhere, including Geneva. It’s not embarrassing. It’s serious. Be vulnerable. Listen. Go and do likewise. Change mental health.

Learn more about the campaign to change mental health at http://www.changedirection.org/. For more information on Geneva College, contact us at 800-847-8255 or web@geneva.edu.