Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are mentally ill people "worth" our compassion?

This week David, Joyce and Dave have shared about how real faith results in compassionate hearts that act on that compassion.

When I think about compassion I'm reminded of Jesus' words that are recorded in Luke 7:46-48. Jesus was specifically talking about Mary at the time, but he presented the principle that one who's been forgiven much, loves much. I've been forgiven MUCH. I've experienced God's grace, mercy, love, and unmerited favor greatly in my life. Because of His love for me, I can love others. I've also been through lots of hard times, so I understand what pain is like and my heart goes out to others who suffer.

But I really appreciated in Dave's post yesterday how the man who gave the single mom the money didn't want anyone to know about it. Somehow sharing about acts that I've done out of compassion feels all wrong; telling others what I've done seems counter productive (perhaps that's why Dave shared about someone else's acts). So, rather than regal you with tales of things I've done, I wanted to share just a bit with you about a group of people who need our compassion.

If you've read my blog much you know that I periodically post about Mental Illnesses. Through my work and personal life I've had years and years of experience dealing with mentally ill individuals. I've noticed that few people understand what it's like for those who suffer from mental illness. Most people just find mentally ill individuals annoying (this is most likely because mentally ill people so frequently engage in annoying behavior!) But no one chooses to have a mental illnesses. I know that God loves mentally ill individuals the same way He loves everyone else. I know that God's heart is that we would love, and not miss opportunities to show that love in action toward mentally ill people when they cross our paths.

What about you, what have your encounters with mentally ill people been like?


Anonymous said...

I am glad you brought this up as it is a subject that I have dealt with and people I love deserve the compassion you talk about.
I saw you mention in one of your other blogs about you sister being paranoid schizophrenic. My brother suffers in that way as well.
I also know other family members who have suffered from major depression and have been greatly helped by medication. I know others can make broad statements about our "over medicated" society, and maybe with reason, but these individuals benefited greatly from these medications. If they didn't "need" this type of help then my conclusion would be, why are they so much better with the help? There is medical evidence about the physiological component of mental illness. Case in point being my brother, who when he takes his medication, he does not suffer from the horrible symptoms of his illness.
I sometimes wonder how and why people are so judgmental about mental illness. I feel there is a stigma in our society and in the church and wonder whether that will ever go away.
I also wonder whether people making judgments about others being on medication think these types of pills give the people a "high" as many recreational drugs do.That is far from the truth, as they just help people to feel "normal" once again.
I cringed the other day when I read some comments about a news report of a soldier returning from the Middle east and a description of his subsequent PTSD and treatment for that.
A " tough" marine lambasted this man as being weak and went on and on about "well in my day" and "when I served with toughness" and on and on.
This man was ANGRY!!!
I could only say " Father, forgive him as he does not know what he is saying"
I guess the proverbial " until you walk in the moccasins of another man, you know not what it is like"
As you can see I am passionate about this subject and the ignorance people sometimes show. I hope that as Christians we can show compassion to ALL people, especially the ones we may feel are "weak". if we feel that way for no other reason than we think they are "weak", they deserve our compassion

jlighari said...

Good word of reminder - Mental illness is just as serious and debilitating as other major illnesses and yet, we vilify the victim rather than giving them compassion.
I worked in this field myself and have other personal experience with mental illness. I think one of the worst places of compassion is in the church. We need clergy and laity to be educated that this is a real illness and not the results of sin, laziness or in anyway the fault of the victim.

RCUBEs said...

Yes, I believe they need our compassion...As most of them have a different world they're in. Seeing things differently. But I also believe that other times, spiritual things are involved.

What can go wrong when we deal with them the way our Lord wants us to love "others"...He didn't mention any exception. Love Him first. Then, love others. He's right about making Him no. 1 first. Because we can't love others from our own strength. As we gain and our hearts are filled by His love, only then, we can respond with unconditional love towards others, be they mentally ill or not.

And then, what's awesome, His weapons are available for us to discern in the spiritual realm.

God bless sister Tracy. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Many. many mentally ill people appear no different than anyone else.
Yes,there is a percentage that are more obvious, and those who do not choose to take medication harm themselves and others.
Just like a diabetic who does not take their medication is harming themselves.
And even with taking medication some conditions still persist with the person being symptomatic.
We have chemicals that help our brain function properly and when they are out of whack help is needed. Sometimes only temporarily, such as a mother with postpartum depression.
There is a stigma in many Christian circles that mental illness is a demonic spirit. If that is that case then all illness is from that.
As I am part of an online chronic illness support group where we have many people who suffer with mental illness. Some have suffered much at the hands of other Christians who don't understand.
I have a mental illness as well as physical. Most people would not realize the mental illness part. It is not like I publicize it.
One of the things I find frustrating is the 'me and them' attitude.
Of course we should have compassion, just as we have compassion on those who have cancer.

Deborah Ann said...

There are many people who quickly judge the mentally ill. They just don't understand that place. They wonder why that person can't just 'get over it.'

I've had my fair share of break downs in the past, and I'm grateful because God has been teaching me to love people in those places, just as I was loved. Great post, Tracy!

Tracy said...

Linda-I'm so glad that you commented; I appreciate what you're saying here. I can relate to your intensity. Like you, I've seen many individuals who have a mental illness get MUCH better via medication. Unfortunately, my sister, like many schizophrenics, does not like what the medications do to her (I've got at least one post on my other blog about the side effects of the common meds), so she won't take her prescribed meds.

Joyce - Like you, I've sadly noticed that often in our society, and especially in churches, it's as if we vilify the people who have a mental illness.

Anonymous - I'm sorry to read that you have to deal with illness. I respect the fact that you are reaching out and helping others. You're so correct about both medication being extremely helpful for some people but does not relieve all symptoms for all people with a mental illness. As far as the demonic, I have a post regarding that whole subject. The bottom line in my opinion is that mental illness are typically physiological in origin. I believe that Satan attacks people where they are weak, but it a physical or mental illness so there is that demonic element. I also believe that in super rare cases there have been times that what was being diagnosed as a mental illness was demonic in origin. I wouldn't generally talk about the demonic part because I agree with you that this has been way over played by the church as has led to stigmatization of those who struggle with a mental illness.

Deborah Ann - From what I've read of what you've written, you are so refreshingly loving and accepting. (BTW - I finally got "Tattoos on the Heart" from the library and look forward to reading it)

Rcubes - You are one of the coolest nurses that I "know"! I bet in your work setting mental illness is especially difficult to deal with. To my understanding, incarcerated individuals can, and in the case of those with a mental illness often do, refuse their medications which would only make their symptoms worse.