“Mental Health and Stigma”
The month of May has been Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. since 1949. This year, LPC is invited to learn something new about the world of mental health. Take a moment to google topics. Enjoy the articles included in this issue of The Epistle.
Jesus healed people living with mental illness – they were among those referred to as “demon possessed.” While we may not use that term, still today there is shaming, blaming and violence directed at those who live with mental illness. Thankfully, research and education are helping to eliminate stigma, but there is still much work to be done. Jesus blasted through stigmas as he healed lepers, ate with sinners, allowed Mary to anoint his feet, and welcomed the crowds who brought to him mentally and physically ill people.
And so we do the same. To blast through stigmas we need to be informed, share our knowledge and share our own stories. If you are willing to share a story regarding your own mental health or how your family is affected by mental health challenges, please let Pastor Diane know. Our stories will be shared during worship in May and into June.
You may ask, what qualifies as a “mental illness.” Excellent question, and the complexities make it difficult to label what is mental illness or neurological disorder. There are also differences in brain function that one person may call a disorder, while another person calls it simply a different way of perceiving.
For our purposes, any challenging condition that is exasperated by the shaming of a community (or stares, rumors, shunning, bullying, etc.) is on topic for our month of May.
In Faith with You,
STAMP OUT STIGMA: MENTAL HEALTH MONTH
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need.
The #4Mind4Body Challenge in May 2018
- As part of Mental Health America’s efforts this May, they are asking people to take the #4Mind4Body Challenge.
join Mental Health America as we challenge ourselves each day to make small changes – both physically and mentally – to create huge gains for our overall health and well-being. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the challenge of the day and to share your progress and successes by posting with #4Mind4Body. Coming in May we will also have a web page collecting posts with #4Mind4Body for people to see what others are doing as part of the challenge.
- As part of Mental Health America’s efforts this May, they are asking people to take the #4Mind4Body Challenge.
Nine Ways NAMI’s Facebook Community Responded to the Question:
“How Do You Fight Stigma?”
Talk Openly About Mental Health
“I fight stigma by talking about what it is like to have bipolar disorder and PTSD on Facebook. Even if this helps just one person, it is worth it for me.” – Angela Christie Roach Taylor
Educate Yourself and Others
“I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn’t matter where I am, if I over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean
Be Conscious of Language
“I fight stigma by reminding people that their language matters. It is so easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and in my experience, most people are willing to replace their usage of it with something else if I explain why their language is problematic.” – Helmi Henkin
Encourage Equality between Physical and Mental Illness
“I find that when people understand the true facts of what a mental illness is, being a disease, they think twice about making comments. I also remind them that they wouldn’t make fun of someone with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.” – Megan Dotson
Show Compassion for Those with Mental Illness
“I offer free hugs to people living outdoors and sit right there and talk with them about their lives. I do this in public, and model compassion for others. Since so many of our homeless population are also struggling with mental illness, the simple act of showing affection can make their day but also remind passersby of something so easily forgotten: the humanity of those who are suffering.” – Rachel Wagner
Choose Empowerment over Shame
“I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher
Be Honest About Treatment
“I fight stigma by saying that I see a therapist and a psychiatrist. Why can people say they have an appointment with their primary care doctor without fear of being judged, but this lack of fear does not apply when it comes to mental health professionals?” – Ysabel Garcia
Let the Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing
“If I watch a program on TV that has any negative comments, story lines or characters with a mental illness, I write to the broadcasting company and to the program itself. If Facebook has any stories where people make ignorant comments about mental health, then I write back and fill them in on my son’s journey with schizoaffective disorder.” – Kathy Smith
Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma
“I fight stigma by not having stigma for myself—not hiding from this world in shame but being a productive member of society. I volunteer at church, have friends, and I’m a peer mentor and a mom. I take my treatment seriously. I’m purpose driven and want to show others they can live a meaningful life even while battling [mental illness].” – Jamie Brown
Is Autism a Mental Illness?
The strange battle over what’s psychiatric versus neurological.
There was an interesting exchange this past Tuesday on CNN’s Anderson Cooper show about whether autism is a mental illness versus some other kind of developmental or neurological state. The two guests were Dr. Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and regular speaker on CNN, and Liza Long, an author, fellow PT blogger, and mental health advocate. The guests were discussing the new revelations that the gunman in the Roseburg, Oregon shootings may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s at one time. For most of the interview, the two guests were in complete agreement and said many things that should be said, such as reminding viewers that people on the autism spectrum are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. But then Dr. Walsh veered in a different direction and made the comment that, by the way, Asperger’s was not a mental illness but rather a description of people who are not “neurotypical.” Dr. Walsh also implied, incorrectly, that the reason Asperger’s was removed from the official catalogue of psychiatric disorders in the DSM-5 manual was in recognition of this recategorization. Liza politely objected to the idea that autism should be carved out this way and argued that such boundaries were artificial and potentially harmful.
This debate has surfaced many times before and in many venues. It is a difficult one to resolve because there really is no scientific basis on which to separate a psychiatric disorder from a neurological or developmental one. Certainly there are some things that feel different when considering autism, especially in its more severe forms, relative to things like depression or anxiety. The development of autism seems less dependent on environmental factors than something like PTSD, for example. It also is generally present at a very early age. For many, autism just seems more intrinsically “biological” than many other conditions. With closer scrutiny, however, it is easy to find holes in these distinctions. As science progresses, the neurobiological basis, or at least substrate, of many other psychiatric conditions is increasingly appreciated. And even though there seems something quite medical about autism, we still have been unsuccessful in identifying the specific processes in the brain that underlie the condition, similar to more classic psychiatric disorders.
Unlike diagnoses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the physicians who specialize in assessing and treating autism are more wide ranging and include behavioral pediatricians, neurologists, and psychiatrists with no single specialty “claiming” this particular condition. This, of course, is in addition to the many non-physicians (psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, special education teachers, etc.) that often provide the bulk of care. Autism treatment definitely works best as a team approach. At the same time, it is probably true that the largest number of patient visits with a specialist physician for autism come from psychiatrists. Furthermore, the only medications with FDA approval in autism are psychiatric medications, although these are used to address irritability and aggression and not the core autistic features.
Yet despite these facts and the lack of any solid basis on which to divide various diagnoses into tidy categories, many autism advocates have worked hard to frame it as a developmental or neurological disorder rather than a psychiatric one. In a classic “be careful what you wish for” moment, they were successful enough to convince some insurance companies not to cover patient visits with psychiatrists that were related solely to autism, leaving some families scrambling to get the care they need.
Autism Speaks currently seems to be trying to avoid this quagmire by now calling autism “a group of complex disorders of brain development.” Such a description is true enough, but the statement seems just as valid for a variety of other diagnoses such as ADHD or even Bipolar Disorder.
The motivation behind the push to label autism as something other than a psychiatric disorder, in my view, comes much more from fears of stigma than any scientific principle. Unfortunately, however, one unintended consequence of the push to move certain conditions out of the mental illness category is increased stigmatization for those that remain there. “We are not you,” is the not so subtle message being sent.
I guess my main point here is that if someone wants to label more extreme and less typical behavior as psychological or neurological or developmental (or as no disorder at all) then that’s their interpretation. However, what is neither scientifically supported nor constructive is to parse out us versus them or you’re ill and I’m not groups that promote further division and stigma. We need to appreciate fully how words like psychiatric, neurological, and developmental are really our own arbitrary creations that the human brain doesn’t recognize or respect. From there, I wonder if it might be best just to leave terms like “mental illness” behind for everyone in favor of more encompassing labels that don’t carry the same history or baggage. Maybe something like “complex brain disorders” would work? That way, we can move beyond this weary debate and work to speak in a unified voice for adequate resources and rights for all people who struggle with cognitive-emotional-behavioral challenges, whatever we decide to call them.
For more reading on a related topic, please see my earlier post, What If We All Got Mentally Ill Sometimes?
@copyright by David Rettew, MD
David Rettew is author of Child Temperament: New Thinking About the Boundary Between Traits and Illness and a child psychiatrist in the psychiatry and pediatrics departments at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
Family Fellowship Events
BlueClaws Baseball Outing
Friday, June 15, 2018: Faith and Family Night, First Energy Park in Lakewood.
- 7:05 PM: Lakewood BlueClaws vs. Hickory Crawdads
- 5:30 PM: Several ball players will talk about their faith and their lives in the minor leagues.
- Tickets are $8.00.
Reply to Dave Reichard that you are coming and the number of tickets desired.
Kayaking in the Pine Barrens
Saturday, August 25, 2018
We will kayak one of the beautiful amber colored little rivers of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This is a family event; invite friends too.
- Put the date on your calendar. Dave Reichard will circulate specifics and survey participants.
- Kayak rental and transport of personal and rental kayaks will be arranged between a canoe livery along the Mullica River and the put-in / take-out points.
Stewardship of Creation
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).
We affirm that the whole of creation belongs to God; all things have intrinsic value, as interconnected gifts of God. In a communion or sacramental vision, stewardship is not only management but servanthood within creation, redirecting growth and restoring Sabbath-keeping.
We affirm that we are called to care for God’s gifts in ways that sustain the whole of creation, contribute to the flourishing of all God’s creatures, and provide these same gifts to the generations that follow us.
We reject, as incompatible with Christian understanding of the material world, any social ordering that reduces creation and humanity merely to an economic or instrumental value.
We reject, as incompatible with Christian stewardship, that self-interested pursuit of profit and limitless consumption are foundations of a good economy; rather, all economic arrangements must be judged by their contribution to the common good and the health of creation.
World of Hurt, Word of Life:
“Renewing God’s Communion in the
Work of Economic Reconstruction”
Office of general assembly, September 2012, p. 2
Family Promise @ Lincroft Presbyterian Church
May 13–20, 2018
Lincroft Presbyterian Church will host Family Promise guests the week of May 3 through 20, 2018. This is our opportunity to stand in solidarity with local homeless families as they work through a very challenging time.
Please volunteer! Pick your spot at http://signup.com/go/yZxVnBO, or contact Kathy Noah or Dave Reichard. Our guests will arrive Sunday evening for dinner. Each night the following week two volunteers will prepare dinner, two will spend the early evening hours with the guests, and two will sleep overnight in the church. (Families can volunteer to provide dinner or to be the evening hosts.)
Boy Scout Troop 246 Eagle Projects
The Lincroft Presbyterian Church’s parking lot was full on Saturday, April 21st as two Boy Scout Troop 246 Eagle Projects got underway. Troop 246 has been sponsored by Lincroft Presbyterian Church since the early 1990s. The Troop was started in the early 1960s at Nut Swamp Elementary School and sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association at Thompson Middle School. Their first Eagle rank was earned and awarded in 1964. Between then and the end of last year, 99 scouts of Troop 246 have earned their Eagle rank.
Andrew Alborn chose a two part Eagle project. The first part being to replace the border landscape timbers around the Cross Prayer Garden. You might recall that the creation and installation of the Cross Prayer Garden was the Eagle Project of our own Kevin Smith (son of Donna and Mike Smith) many years ago. Landscape timbers do not last forever and it was clear that they needed to be replaced. By the end of the day, all that was left to do of this part of his Eagle Project was to add some more wood chips and mulch. Here you see Andrew on the left with a few of his scout and friend helpers.
Tom Pinnola chose to rebuild one of the Scout sheds. This shed is at least 25 years old and exhibited quite a bit of water damage and rot in many of the sheets of plywood on the sides and roof besides needing new shingles. A real plus of this project is that it benefited two organizations: Lincroft Presbyterian Church as it is on our property; and BSA Troop 246 as it is one of their two storage sheds.
By the end of the day, the shed was all back together and just awaiting exterior painting. Here is Tom (second from the right) with a couple of his Scout helpers.
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