Mental Illness and Violence. It's Time for Compassionate Courage.

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Every time there is a public tragedy involving an individual with a serious mental illness, many well known Mental Health organizations make the predictable statements about how "people who have mental illness are no more violent than others" followed closely by "and they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators." If that truly is the case, then why do we continue to see so many horrendous stories involving violence toward family members? Police? If that is the case then why are families, who have loved ones battling serious mental illness, told to call the police when they reach out to a Crisis line for help? Why do psychiatric nurses have panic buttons and some psychiatric wards have locks? 

I run the risk of being accused of reinforcing "stigma" here. It's not an easy topic and I certainly do not want people to think my loved one is a person to be afraid of.  He most certainly is not, when receiving proper treatment. And there's the key, treatment. People who have untreated serious mental illness can become violent. Is it because they are evil? Or is it the same reason we provide a secure environment with treatment for people suffering from Alzheimer's or Dementia?

Delusions and hallucinations are scary things. They tell the brain something that is not true. Imagine believing that someone is out to get you or that voices are sending you messages through the television. Psychosis is real and it damages the brain causing loss of cognition. Not receiving treatment for psychosis is akin to not receiving CPR and life saving medications for a heart attack. And yet, we continue to neglect people who suffer this way and somehow expect them to follow the rules of society without our intervention. We cannot continue to downplay the consequences of untreated serious mental illness and bury our heads in the sand leaving this population completely trapped and vulnerable, and yes, leaving our communities at risk.

So, what does that mean for us moving forward? How do we move from ignorance and fear to help and hope? I propose a healthy dose of compassionate courage along with a few practical suggestions: 

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1. Educate Yourself

Do you know where to find help for someone who is experiencing a psychotic break in your area? What if the person doesn't want to get help or doesn't think they need help? What would you do?  In Arizona we've made a cheat sheet of sorts with the main on ramps to services in Maricopa County. Get familiar with the resources available in your area. 

2. No Resources? Advocate!

Visit, call, and write to your legislators! Connect with other advocates, or begin your own group. It only takes one to start. In Arizona you can visit rescuesmi.com to learn more about the issues and suggested state policies to implement. For national issues, visit mentalillnesspolicy.org.

3. Attend a Crisis Care Team Training for Faith Groups

If you are a member of a local church, or place of worship, consider joining us for our soon to be quarterly Crisis Care Team training here in Arizona. We will equip you to intentionally, and compassionately, work together in your faith group to come along side of people and families at risk. We have a special focus on the issue of serious mental illness.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of action items, but it is a starting place. Join us by taking those first steps toward helping people with compassionate courage. We can do this, and we can definitely do it together.

 

 

 

   

 

Imago Dei and the Unspeakables

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New to the Non-profit world, and running on a shoestring budget, I seem to be behind the eight-ball when it comes to aligning our social media blasts with important dates. Sunday was "National Sanctity of Human Life Day" and true to form, I missed the memo.

As photographs and stories filled my news feed of people standing up for the lives of the pre-born, something I fully support, a struggle began to foment in my soul. I just knew the sanctity of life, as defined by Genesis 1:27, had so much more to encompass:

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

I was glad to see many speaking up this year at the "March for Life" in Washington, DC on behalf of men and women made in the image of God. Imago Dei. Thousands marched, not only on behalf of protecting the pre-born, but on behalf of the elderly, the disabled, the refugee, and against racial injustice. I love to see the powerless and the marginalized get their day. And so, I rejoiced. 

And then, I struggled too. I fought back a see-saw of emotions that went between passion for the oppressed and a stirring discomfort knowing that the seriously mentally ill rarely are, if ever, spoken of. Why are they the unspeakable ones? I mused. Imago Dei.

Oh, we are tepidly comfortable as a nation in speaking up for people with more common mental health challenges, as we should be. But people with more serious mental illnesses, like Schizophrenia, never make it to the cool Christian blogs or political stump speeches.

Why are they the unspeakable ones? Imago Dei.
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As one of our elders began to pray in our church yesterday on National Sanctity of Life Sunday, he prayed for image bearers. He prayed for the pre-born, the elderly, the disabled, and the refugee. He prayed against racial injustice, for the marginalized, and to my surprise, he spoke the unspeakable: he prayed for the mentally ill. He said it. And the tears welled up with gratitude. To hear the unspeakable words before God and our congregation, well, it was as beautiful a sound as I've ever heard. Yet, God did not need to hear those words, because He already knows. It is us who need to hear and it is us who need to speak. 

So, dear churches, may I appeal to you? Dear neighbors, may I have an honest word with you? Are you speaking up for the unspeakables? Are you speaking up on behalf of the Imago Dei people in your communities who have no voice? Are you moving toward the seriously mentally ill as Jesus moved toward you?

I pray that you are. And I pray that you will join us in elevating their voice in 2018. These are our very own neighbors who cannot fight for themselves and they need our help. These are the untouchables, the unspeakables of our day.

National Sanctity of Life day is over, but every day we can celebrate the wonder of Imago Dei. Every day we can reflect the gospel and the very heart of God through speaking and through giving.

I've never been comfortable with asking for help, much less asking people to partner with us financially. But that is exactly what I'm doing. This is us, all of us, speaking up and speaking out for our neighbors who are rarely spoken of.

Please consider giving to P82 Project Restoration this year. Every gift helps, big or small, and here are just a few examples:

  •  $25.00 per month will cover the cost of a website (we have 2 now, we are building 1 more).
  •  $50.00 per month will cover the cost of paper, stamps, ink (and sometimes I need gas! I drive to a ton of meetings!).
  •  $75.00 per month will cover the cost of marketing supplies (we need to get the word out!)
  •  $100.00 per month will cover the cost of producing materials for Crisis Care Team training for the faith community (come on faith groups! you can do this and we want to help you!).
  •  $500.00 will cover the cost of video and marketing production (did I mention we need to get the word out!)
  • $1,000.00 or more will help us gear up for larger fundraising events (did I mention we are going to open a home! Oh yes, we are...)

Whatever you can give, please know that it will make a difference! We are tiny handful of volunteers and we take no salary. Every bit that we receive is used to elevate this cause. Won't you consider joining in this work?

You can give securely here: DONATE to P82

I guarantee you, you will never regret giving to those who can never pay you back. 

- Deborah

 

 

 

  

5 Tips for Caregivers of People with Serious Mental Illness Around the Holidays

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There is an easy consensus among families and caregivers that Christmas time is one of the most challenging times of the year for a loved one struggling with a serious mental illness. Milestones missed, loss of health, and unmet dreams are keenly felt amidst the holiday cheer and festivities. 

As if grappling with these emotions isn't enough, there is also the formidable reality of psychotic related symptoms that individuals endure. This can be daunting and confusing for family and friends as they desire to help their loved one. Here are a few tips, definitely not all encompassing, that we've learned over the years:

1. Watch your expectations

Perhaps your family has a long history of Christmas traditions that include attending a show like the Nutcracker, visiting Aunt Jane and your 15 cousins, baking holiday cookies all day, family outings to pick out the perfect tree. O.K., I know not every family does these things, but what can you let go of this year? As much as we cherish beloved traditions, maybe it's time to consider making new ones.

Maybe it's time to consider creating little moments now, and to reset those expectations. Keeping a simple schedule that includes more one-on-one time, going to places where the crowds are low or non existent. Sometimes a trip to a coffee shop or a short hike together can make all the difference in a day. A lot of little moments can add up over the years to build many big memories for your family. Enjoy each one of them. Also, don't be shy about asking other trusted friends or family members to take your loved one out to coffee too. Who can't give up an extra 20 minutes out of their week? 

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2. Give your loved one space.

Being around people at family and church gatherings, even familiar people, is stressful for someone with a psychotic brain illness. And that is putting it mildly! Be sensitive to this and don't be alarmed if they cannot endure a seemingly small thing like sitting at the dinner table for the entire meal. If you are able, create a quiet, pleasant, clutter-free space in your home for them to have as a personal retreat to go to as often as they need.

Something as small as a family dinner can be exhausting. Don't be surprised if your loved one sleeps for extended times after such gatherings. In fact, it is restorative and much needed. 

3. See the person, not the illness.

Keeping tips #1 and #2 in mind, don't forget that the illness does not define your loved one. Look for ways to include and to encourage. Our loved ones grapple with a myriad of unpleasant symptoms almost every moment of every day. How often do they hear encouragement? Who doesn't like to be encouraged? Be on the look out for ways to encourage and see what a difference it can make.

4. Don't freak out.

Everyone of us have good days and bad days. If your loved one has a string of bad days, don't panic. Keep in touch with your loved one's doctor, but also keep in mind that you could just be one good night's sleep away from a good day. If you live in an area where you do not have access to a doctor or clinic, come up with a crisis-plan ahead of time, make sure you have important phone numbers easily accessible. Include people in your trusted support network. You cannot be too prepared and it will give you peace of mind. 

5. Feed your soul.

It is important to take care of yourself especially during the holidays. Warm baths, quiet walks, a good night's sleep, or watching your favorite Netflix shows are nice, but nothing can nourish your soul like reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas. We really like "The Gospel Coalition's" list of new resources for the Advent Season here.

A few final thoughts, we realize that many families are not even in a place of stability due to lack of critical resources and cannot even begin to apply the above suggestions. Please know that our prayers are with you this holiday season and we hope that there may be one or two things you can glean or apply to your situation.

May this post serve as reminder to others in our nation, to be aware of so many who are suffering this year. So many who are visiting loved ones in prison, psychiatric wards, or cemeteries and they may just be battling to breathe with every moment. Our hearts are with you and we long for better days ahead for you. This is why P82 Project Restoration exists, to begin to make a difference...one life at a time. God bless you this Christmas. You are the hidden champions and heroes in our communities. 

    

 

 

Does God Go to Mental Health Court?

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Have you ever been to a mental health court hearing? I have on several occasions. It is one of the most difficult, yet beautiful experiences to behold. You might think it's strange that I use the word "beautiful," but let me explain. Primarily, it's difficult because no one wants to take someone's rights away. No one relishes court ordering a person to take medications or to testify in front of the very person you love about their behavior during an unwelcome brain storm of psychosis. 

But there it is. We live in this broken world with these difficult choices. And it is only love that drives us to help the ones we care for so deeply. Yet, if you look more closely, there is also a beauty in the rescuing. A beauty that defies our unrest and apprehension. We can say "no" to clawing doubt and fears, because what is the alternative anyway? But there's so much more to see in that court room, so much more to take to heart.

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How do you love the one who can't love you back? The one you long to hold in your arms and gently say, "it's going to be all right, my dear." When you know they can't, or won't be held. And you don't really know if it will be all right. How in this mess do you love with a love that will not be reciprocated? How when there is an unseen knife in your heart that goes with you everywhere? It taunts you with an ache that defies your attempts to soothe.

Well, you begin by remembering. Remember the one who loved you when you didn't, or wouldn't, love him back. When you refused and mocked, said "No!" to grace. No to the very arms that could make you whole. Yet, He would not relent and He loved... 

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -

Romans 5:6-8

Jesus loves every day. He never stops, even against the refusing and the mocking of our hearts, choosing our own way. He doesn't relent. I can love this way, in part, because He loves me so much more. I can choose to love this way, because the Father made the way. He crushed His son so I will never be crushed...

 "Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

rand the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all." - Isaiah 53:4-6

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So is it possible to find beauty in a mental health court? Even joy? Oh yes, I believe it is. Because you cannot stop Isaiah 53 love. It enters the darkest, the bleakest places. And there it shines most bright.

 

Deborah Geesling, founder of P82 Project Restoration

 

Of Broken Things: A Sister’s Grief

Preface: Welcome to our Journal. Our intention is to write short, yet informative, pieces about serious mental illness that will educate and inspire compassion. We know that there are numerous websites you can visit for general information about illnesses like Schizophrenia, for example. Instead of a generic list of symptoms, we're going to share about the real life situations behind the labels and diagnosis. Names and circumstances may be slightly altered, but we believe there are some exceptional individuals you should meet. People who live right in your own backyard (so to speak). So sit back, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few brief moments with our Journal.

Today we are going to hear from Sarah Knaub again, who writes about grief. She is the older sibling to someone who suffers with a serious mental illness. Sarah makes her home in the East Valley of the Phoenix, Arizona area. 

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In a previous post I discussed what it was like adjusting to life with a younger sister with mental illness. About two years ago, my sister left for a group home. She packed a bag one morning and was gone before noon on a Friday. Several group homes, juvenile detention, the streets, and finally another state later, it’s safe to say nothing’s gone the way we originally thought.

This Present Weight

“I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning…I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” Psalm 38:6&8

The first few months after my sister left, our grief revolved around her absence. It was like an ache lingering in the bones, a weight constantly carried.  I had thought that mourning was reserved for death: but this irreversible breaking of our family brought grief just as tangibly heavy. It’s difficult to describe the many emotions that followed me in those days. Denial. Sadness. Anger. Resignation.

So, we coped. We kept the door to the empty bedroom at the end of the hall shut and I didn’t go near it for a long time. My younger sisters and I never really talked about what happened. But we did gradually grow closer, healing through arguments and tears.

Grief, I’ve found, is a very lonely process. But God was there through it all.

No What-ifs

“I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, ‘…Will the Lord spurn forever and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased?’” Psalm 77:5-8

Just when the present reality finally seemed to settle in around us, I began to grieve the past.

Sure, I missed the sister that had left. But our relationship was in pieces by the time she walked out the door. I didn’t want the version of her that walked out the door back; I wanted “my” little sister back. I wanted the little girl I loved: somehow, someway, she had gotten swallowed up by whatever was going on in her brain and that change has not yet, and perhaps will never, cease to sting.

Guilt over all the things I’d done wrong haunted me. Maybe if I hadn’t yelled so much. Maybe if I hugged her more. That desire, to somehow go back in time and love her a little better, has never left me. It still has the power to bring me to my knees before the Father that crafted and holds our past. I praise Him that past regret does not alter tomorrow’s hope.

Tomorrow’s Absence

“Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you…why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?” Psalm 88:9&14

The future does not look like I thought it would. We’ve moved forward, however. My sister’s bedroom now holds a sofa and TV. We talk to her on the phone every so often. We pray for her heart, for her safety, for her healing. It’s hard, though, not to get stuck mourning the “could-have-beens” – the milestones and memories we’ll celebrate in a capacity I’d never anticipated.

The reality of what my family has been through has also meant a change in our relationships. Lack of knowledge breeds misunderstanding, and I lost or drifted away from many friends during those years. I miss these relationships and mourn all the brokenness that can arise out of misconceptions about mental illness and how to deal with it.

It’s still hard to explain to new friends the disparity between “I have three sisters,” and “Let me introduce you to two of them.” Reunions with old friends present similar difficulties. My family has experienced both a unique and yet all too common situation. How do you sum up the fallout of mental illness in a few neat sentences?

Where will my sister go from here? How will our relationship look a year from now? Will there still be one?

Tomorrow’s uncertainty will either drive us insane or to the cross.

God of All Comfort

We mourn, but not as people without hope.

My grief remains, and I still struggle with it daily. But God has used it to bring deep empathy and love for my sister and other struggling families.

I cry with those mourning all the things you lose when you love someone with mental illness, but also rejoice with them that our eyes have been opened to all the beauty gained. Where this sin-riddled world breaks, God brings healing through the breaking – for the mentally ill and us (the siblings, the parents, the friends, the family) too.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

It's Time to Give Light Again: Thanksgiving 2017

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Last year we had this thought just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, "What if we invited people to simply give $5 toward Fry's gift cards for group homes that serve people with serious mental illness?" It's a good thing we acted on that thought because our community really came through. You gave $700.00 in just a few short days, enough to provide hearty meals for 16 homes! Thank you!

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Because you care and want to make a difference (and due to the fact that we're not really rocket scientists around here) suffice it to say, we're going to do it again. Holidays can be such a difficult time for individuals who suffer from serious brain disorders, especially if they are not connected to family or to our community.

Please join us again (or for the very first time) to make this Thanksgiving, 2017, a little brighter. Go to our secure donation section here and select "Thanksgiving: Give Light" on the "My donation is for" option.

You are making a difference! Thank you!

(Photos from Thanksgiving 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are You and What Have You Done With My Sister?

Preface: Welcome to our Journal. Our intention is to write short, yet informative, pieces about serious mental illness that will educate and inspire compassion. We know that there are numerous websites you can visit for general information about illnesses like Schizophrenia, for example. Instead of a generic list of symptoms, we're going to share about the real life situations behind the labels and diagnosis. Names and circumstances may be slightly altered, but we believe there are some exceptional individuals you should meet. People who live right in your own backyard (so to speak). So sit back, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few brief moments with our Journal.

Today we are going to hear from Sarah Knaub. She is the older sibling to someone who suffers with a serious mental illness. Sarah resides in the East Valley of the Phoenix, Arizona area. 

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I am a sibling of someone with mental illness.

In my early teens, one of my younger sisters began to change. The sweet, bubbly kid I’d known all my life suddenly seemed like a different person. For my parents, myself, and two other younger sisters, it was a strange and terrifying reality where nothing made sense and there were no good answers.

Here are five main aspects of what it was like discovering and living with a sibling suffering from mental illness:

1. Confusion

I didn’t grow up believing in mental illness. From a young age I could have dutifully rattled off a long list of reasons as to why it was all made up. So when my younger sister began to change, it was initially chalked up to “sin”. As a result, I often approached my sister with the ungraciousness this black-and-white explanation produced. I struggled with fear, anger, and guilt over why she would randomly choose to behave so irrationally.

2. Shame

There is a suffocating silence imposed by a lack of vocabulary to describe what’s happening, the look of disbelief on friends’ faces, and the sense of living a double life. I alienated many friends as I put up walls between us, upset and betrayed that they didn’t understand. I watched my sister fall apart and keenly felt my family’s pain; the result was a crushing feeling of helplessness, weakness, and uselessness.

3. Resignation

My parents needed to pour constant time and energy into making sure my sister didn’t harm herself or others – so circumstances often required I step up and act as an adult in the family. I acted as protector for my littlest sister. I cleaned up messes, took on chores, helped handle violent situations, and became included in vital decisions pertaining to my sister and the household. Knowing little about emotional boundaries, I accepted these changes as necessary and natural.

4. Isolation

My church at the time was not equipped to deal with mental illness. No one had bad intentions, nor did anyone set out to be insensitive. However, my siblings and I were met with surprise and confusion when we tried to express our own fear and hurt over what was going on. We felt invisible, alone, and had few explicit safe places to go in the middle of an “incident.” Afraid of being quoted Romans 8:28 (“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good”) yet again, I simply stopped talking about what was going on, ashamed and wondering whether things really were “that bad." I questioned my faith, I yelled at God, and despaired when there were no instant answers from heaven.

5. Grief

Before my sister even walked out the door for the last time, I mourned her loss. The little sister that I shared secrets with, giggled with, played with, and grew up with suddenly became a person I didn’t understand, a person I feared. I grieved the change, and the fact that the future looked much, much different than I had imagined. I also grieved the hurt I saw my parents and other siblings in, as well as the changes in myself.

There’s much more to the story than these five aspects, and each one has its own complexities and perspectives. However, if these words have brought some awareness to the largely overlooked kids and adults who grew up with someone struggling with mental illness, I’m glad.

To the siblings: God sees you. You are not alone, or forgotten, and your own pain – of being the collateral damage – is very, very real. And very much for a purpose. I’ll tell that story later, though.

Instead of ending with Romans 8:28, I’ll end with a verse right after it:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:37-39

The Church's Role and Serious Mental Illness

In previous posts, we've shared true and difficult stories from families of loved ones with serious mental illness who have had a negative experience within their local church. Our hearts go out to these families and many others who share a similar background. In today's post, we'll hear another perspective regarding the church's role from our President, Deborah Geesling:

The Church's Role and Serious Mental Illness

Let me just get this out of the way, I love my church. 

No church is perfect, but ever since we've entered the world of advocating we rarely hear positive reports of church experience with family members and those afflicted with serious mental illness. For some reason that has not been the case with us. So I wanted to share a few things from our experience that we've learned.

1. The church is not equipped to treat serious mental illness. 

Yes, I said that. The church is also not equipped to treat diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, lymphoma and dandruff. The responsibility primarily for illness belongs in the hands of medical professionals. 

2. The Christian church's primary responsibility is to preach the gospel and to make disciples.

Yes, I said that too. You won't hear me jumping on the bandwagon of blaming all of societal ills on the church because they haven't filled every need in our cities.

3. If you need help, ask for it. 

Maybe it will only be someone praying for you. Maybe counseling, a car ride, a phone call. Whatever. How can anyone know what you need unless you ask? Serious mental illness can be daunting, most don't understand or even have the answers for you (I didn't until I had my son!!), so be grateful for the little deeds. Just knowing someone is there for you can be enough at times. Keep your expectations real with folks. They have lives and responsibilities too. 

4. The church can be equipped to give support, empathy, long suffering, acceptance and love to those with serious mental illness and their families.

This I have experienced. It didn't happen overnight, but our son taught us how to do it. And parents, may I be candid for a moment? Well, since this is my blog I'll just say it anyway...let's get some thick skin. First, if you are in the wrong church, leave. Find one that is truth and grace centered. And then go and be ye patient. If someone makes an offhanded remark? Forgive. If someone makes a judgement? Speak the truth in love and educate. Show the same long suffering with folks that you would want them to show you and your child. 

Simply remember your own bias and judgements before God graced you with a special needs seriously mentally ill child, then remember the gospel and how long suffering and patient Christ is with you. And then wait...wait and see what glory God will bring out of your tragedies. 

And if you've never gone to church because you are afraid that you will be hurt? Go anyway. You may be hurt. But you may not. You could be missing out on an oasis of care that God wants to grace you with, beginning with a relationship with Him.
 

 

Weekend Reading

A small gathering of recommended reads:

"Dreams of My Uncle," by Howard Husock asks the question, "Are we treating the mentally ill better today than we did a century ago?" The answer may surprise you.

Mother shares her struggle in accessing treatment for son who has mental illness. She lives in a county in California where Assisted Outpatient Treatment is not available. Thousands of families across the nation face this heart breaking dilemma. 

Speaking of Assisted Outpatient Treatment, New York state lawmakers fail to come to a decision on making Kendra's Law permanent this week.

A story from Louisiana directly related to the fall-out of HUD's decision to end Federal funding for transitional housing in favor of "Housing First."

A story from the Southwest, "The new asylums: How Utah traps the mentally ill behind bars."

For a little background on the "Housing First" model, "The Tragedy of Housing Compassion" by a couple of moms in the trenches.

Caring for Families Who Have an Invisible Illness

PREFACE

Welcome to the Journal. Our intention is to write short, yet informative, pieces about serious mental illness that will educate and inspire compassion. We know that there are numerous websites you can visit for general information about illnesses like Schizophrenia, for example. Instead of a generic list of symptoms, we're going to share about the real life situations behind the labels and diagnosis. Names and circumstances may be slightly altered, but we believe there are some exceptional individuals you should meet. People who live right in your own backyard (so to speak). So sit back, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few brief moments with our Journal.

Today we are going to hear from Bob Campbell, one of our Board members:

Four People in a Foyer before Church

First person: My daughter broke her leg playing soccer on Tuesday.

Responses: Wow, is she in pain? How does she get around? Will she miss school?

Second person: My husband learned that he has bone cancer.

Responses: Oh, I am so sorry. How can we help? Does he need help getting to treatments? We'll set up a meal schedule for you. That's one thing you won't have to worry about.

Third person: My wife has been told she can no longer drive, her eyes are so bad.

Responses: You are still working, aren't you. I am home most of the time. If she needs to go anywhere, please have her call me. I'd be happy to drive here anywhere she needs to be. I'll call her and take her for coffee, just to get out.

Fourth person: My wife has been diagnosed with a severe psychosis. Sometimes I don't know how to help her.

Responses: (silence)

People can understand and interact about injuries and diseases that they can see or have experienced. But they often fail to understand that a diseased brain is also a broken part of a body. As a clumsy example, think about a car. It is easy to understand that it cannot operate properly if a tire is flat, the alternator or starter doesn't work, or the engine--the nerve center--is broken. But the human equivalents are not so easily understood. We understand the flat tire (broken leg), or the alternator (immune system), or the starter (heart), but the engine control center (the brain) is discussed, or not, as though it is otherworldly--not part of the human make up.

Of the four people in the discussion that opened this post, the person needing the most support and understanding is the fourth person. The girl with the broken leg, the husband with cancer, and the woman with failing eyesight, as upsetting as these things are, and they are not to be slighted, all have the ability to understand and participate in their treatment or recovery process. They are able to assist or interact with the caregiver in some way. The woman with the psychosis has lost the ability to understand or properly assess her sickness. Her control center has a short circuit. While this is terrible for her, it may be even worse for those who love her. She is not able to understand the kind of help she needs, and is often inclined to combat it. Logic is not part of the solution. Behavior can be strange and unexpected, but without a logical resolution. The major caregiver is not inclined to vocalize his/her need for support and assistance because to do so requires sharing things about the loved one that don't put her in the best light. It can be a very lonely care, one that absolutely requires total selflessness. Adult-level conversations are not the norm. Love for each other either grows or disintegrates, depending on the caregiver's depth of commitment to his spouse and God.

P82 Project Restoration exists to love and support families caring for mentally ill loved ones. Our goal is to raise awareness that mental illness is not a stigma, it is a broken control center. We want to create a community of acceptance, understanding and support for the mentally ill and their families.

Author: Bob Campbell

 Bob's background includes 48 years in corporate IT and the last ten with a non-profit organization in the Phoenix area. He is active in church service, including 25 years as choir director. Bob has been the sole caregiver for his wife with a brain illness for the past 8 years. Currently he volunteers as a database consultant for a mission agency as well as an adviser to P82 Project Restoration, Inc. He is championing our Committee on Crisis Care Team Training for Faith Groups coming this Fall 2017.