Of Saints & Suicidal Ideations


Warning: this post talks about self-harm and suicidal thoughts. If you are experiencing this, you can chat online with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call at 1.800.273.8255.

We are in the final weeks of the Christian season of Lent: a time where we focus on the fact that we are not yet who we will be, and that we still live in much darkness, weakness, and self-obsession. On its own, this could become masochistic or over-indulgent depending on your personality. But this is why Easter comes on the other side as a call to cast off the brooding and soul-spelunking to rise into the highest heights of celebration and freedom the Resurrection offers.

But still, this time lends itself to sadder reflections. The other day, my coworkers and I were sharing stories of social work clients we’ve worked with over the years and I was brought back ten years to my first time encountering a suicidal client when I was brand new to the field.

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The best piece I’ve ever read on Mental Health & the Church


Kulhanek-Untitled

“I want to know if you smile when you see me happy again and if a tear runs down your face when you realize that your people are the reason I’ve never quite healed, that chemistry and not Christianity has been my cure.”

~ Lydia Childress,“They’ve Thrown Us Out of the Church Like Lepers”

That’s the opening quote of this amazing piece, “Jesus is not our Zoloft: Reflections on Mental Health and the Church”, by R.L. Stollar, and I think it captures well the heavy heart with which he writes.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Stollar, what he does or what his experiences in this area are, but this blog post is absolutely stunning. It is a response and critique of a recent Gathering on Mental Health and the Church conference, spearheaded by Rick Warren. He sees many things that encourage him, and some others that further dismay him. And he is spot on.

He points out the ways that the Church has wrongly seen mental health issues and mistreated those with them, and he beautifully charts a way forward.

Please read this. Yes, it’s kind of longer than most blog pieces, and doesn’t lend itself to skimming. But if all church leaders and Christians read this and took it to heart, it could change and help so much. The Church needs to hear this.
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The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving. [REPOST]


Yesterday, the annual meal referenced in this post occurred at my work, so I thought I’d re-post this today on this Thanksgiving Eve.

Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel the awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back at her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.

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[art credit: “Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell]

a word on the effect of Corbett’s budget on Philly social services…


The Philadelphia Inquirer had this front page article today on Governor Tom Corbett’s drastic proposed Pennsylvania budget cuts and their particular effect on social services.

I work for one of the main social service agencies in Philadelphia. I can tell you that these effects will be real, not exaggerated, and felt by everyone (and perhaps even illegal). Is there really no more balanced, thoughtful, or nuanced approach to this?

In a notable quote from the article, executive director of NHS Human Services, Paul Sachs, told the Council committee about how the changes would eventually cost us more, not less:

 

We will see an increase in medical hospitalizations for the types of problems that frequently coexist with behavioral-health problems, such as diabetes, pulmonary, and cardiac conditions, not to mention sensitivity to extremes of cold or hot weather. And, I am sorry to say, we will see more people die whose deaths could have been avoided…. The governor’s budget cuts will not save money. Rather, it is an elaborate cost shift to emergency medical care and criminal justice systems, neither of which is designed to address the core problems facing these vulnerable individuals.

Please contact your local representative and let them know that you want this Commonwealth known for fighting for the vulnerable, and to at least show a little restraint, creativity, and nuance in how it maintains fiscal responsibility.

Posted from WordPress for Android on my Droid X

The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving.


Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel an awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back to her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.
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Sex & Crazy People


I’m currently at the beach all this week for work. I’m having to help some clients learn the real-world skills of socialization, vacationing, and relaxation (yes, seriously–my job is awesome).

I’ve been working in the direct care and counseling of individuals with mild to severe mental illness for just over two years now. I’ve encountered many different presentations of many different mental illnesses and disabilities, but I’m beginning to notice some common themes.

One of the main (obvious) effects of mental illness and disability is that they prevent the person (or at least hinder them) from conforming to the normal standards of behavior and acculturation most of the rest of us go through more or less successfully. In other words, mental health issues are very good windows into the heart and nature of humanity apart from the “limitations” and “controls” our culture and our upbringing place on us.

So as I have looked into these bits and pieces of our truest, most unfiltered humanity, what have I seen? Sex. Lots and lots of sex. Continue reading