“They” are in fact, “us”

Published April 20, 2012

The editorial Choosing Life [April 2012, p. 4] tells a heart-breaking story of untreated mental illness resulting in the suicide of a young mother. One in three Canadians will experience a mental health problem sometime during their life. This may range from a brief episode all the way to severe persistent mental illness. When you include the families, friends, neighbours and co-workers, it is clear that mental illness affect us all. Yet too often these problems go unrecognized or those affected don’t seek help. Why? Very often because of the stigma associated with mental health concerns. These illnesses and those who live with them are still misunderstood, feared and shunned.People with mental health concerns are not all in hospitals or living on the streets. They cut our hair, teach our children, run our businesses and care for us when we are sick. They sit in our pews and lead our parishes and congregations. “They” are, in fact, “us.”The editorial asks whether clergy are trained to spot warning signs of depression or equipped to provide comfort and support. My answer would be no, not usually—except for addictions, which many do not see as a mental health issue. There are steps clergy and laity alike can take to become informed and equipped to help. Here are some resources:· Mental Health First Aid, sponsored by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (www.mentalhealthfirstaid.ca), provides an overview of common mental health problems and how to help someone experiencing a crisis until they can access professional help.· ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), developed by Living Works (www.livingworks.net) is hands-on, practical training in recognizing and responding to someone at imminent risk of suicide. Living Works has other workshops for suicide alertness and community suicide awareness.· Contact your provincial branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Schizophrenia Society, or Mood Disorders Association. They have speakers, libraries, pamphlets, and programs for mental health consumers and their families as well as community awareness and education.· Clergy planning a sabbatical might consider building in a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education or Pastoral Counselling Education with a mental health focus.Thank you for this editorial and other recent articles that aim to raise the awareness of Canadian Anglicans about the reality of mental illness. Hopefully, over time, we will become more comfortable reaching out a supporting hand to our brothers and sisters.The Rev. Canon Mary HolmenChaplain and CPE Teaching SupervisorSelkirk Mental Health CentreSelkirk, Man.


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