I have no formal expertise in this subject. However, I have lived long enough to have encountered mental illness and to have formed some opinions about it.
The statistics for people becoming mentally ill indicate that any one of us (or our families and friends) is likely to suffer at some time.
There is still a lot of ignorance about mental illness. It can affect children, young people, adults of any age and depression is not unusual among elderly people
There are many different forms of mental illness. Unlike specific physical illnesses, which usually lead to the same symptoms in many sufferers, a named mental illness may appear differently in individuals.
The emphasis this week is on mindfulness.
I’d like to throw in a few more suggestions for recovery from mental illness, which is often stress-related.
Sometimes it can be useful to do something creative, which keeps one’s hands occupied. Knitting, crochet, art, colouring, rug-making, puzzles of various kinds, embroidery and basket-making are examples. Not everyone will be helped by the same activity.
Basket-making is rather an iconic form of therapy in this context. I once heard that people were only discharged from old-fashioned mental hospitals, when they had succeeded in making a basket. There is an expression used to describe someone, who may be mentally ill: a basket case. The derivation is obvious. Basket-making requires a certain amount of patience, dexterity, the ability to follow a pattern and strength. It is not something that everyone is able to do, however well they may be.
As I understand it, mindfulness involves being in the present moment. Anxiety and other stress-related conditions may respond to this.
We can only live in the present moment. It is encouraging that God’s name is “I am”. Present tense. Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Mindfulness seems to be helpful. What I’d like to say is that prayer and trust in God are even better.
I am not saying that those with faith in God are immune to mental illness. We are not. Many suffer at various times from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and long term mental health problems.
Neither am I saying that people with mental health problems are to blame for their condition.
Many people with these problems are also lonely, partly because of the stigma associated with having a mental illness.
There are many blogs and other articles online about mental illness. Some are attached to “official” websites such as the one I linked above and Time to change.
Some are by individuals experiencing problems in their lives, which they are brave enough to share with others for mutual support.
In my view some of the stigma arises out of fear of the unknown. The media highlight cases where a tragedy has arisen due to the mental instability of an individual. There are many forms of mental illness, which do not result in these sorts of tragedies. It could be argued that with more understanding and acceptance, more people might be helped and suicides, murders and other tragedies prevented.
There are courses in first aid and in resuscitation, for example. Perhaps it is time that the public should be educated about the causes, symptoms and treatment of mental illness. The health service seems to be stretched to its limit. Of course it is important to know when to seek professional help, but with better understanding and support from family and friends, escalation of a mental health problem to critical might be avoided.
I am publishing this post towards the end of Mental Health Awareness week. At the beginning of the week I found this site, where Christianity and mindfulness are connected. I also found this post about writing,which gives useful insights. This one is a blogger’s personal account of dealing with a diagnosis.
Have you found mindfulness helpful? What do you think about the early signs of mental health issues?