May all year

Today is the last day of May 2018. Thus marking the last day of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month. I have seen a great deal of Hope being passed around and that is exciting.

I have received multiple messages saying things like “3 years since my last suicide attempt”, “Finally found a med that is working! Praise God!” I love getting those kinds of messages. It lets me know that we are doing something right.

I had the opportunity to dialog with one of my heroes, Kay Warren of Saddleback Church, during a Facebook live about the experience of having a mental health issue and how Celebrate Recovery has helped me in realizing hope in my own life. It has been seen over 29,000 times!  You can watch that interview here.

The Celebrate Recovery Mental Health Team has grown which will improve our accessibility and increase the effect that the Celebrate Recovery Mental Health Initiative can have on the lives of those of us who struggle with our mental health.

One of the more encouraging messages was one I received from a pastor who let me know that he shared with his congregation about his own struggles and how there is still victory in Christ for those who struggle. This kind of message will not only break the stigma that surrounds mental health but it will shatter it into a million pieces.

God is moving and lives are being saved!

While I want to sit back and enjoy these beautiful successes, because they are worth celebrating, I fear taking the time to do so for too long a period. Because people are still dying. People are still losing hope. People still need to hear that they are loved. People still need to hear that they belong. I know, because I was one of those people.

I want to make people aware of what so many of us struggle with. We need to make others aware. But when it comes to mental health awareness I personally feel that one of the most powerful messages that can be shared is from those of us who struggle, and those of us who used to struggle so never forget what that struggle is like! I don’t want us to hold onto our pain but I want us to remember. I don’t want us to wallow in self-pity like some badge of honor, but I want us to understand that there are many more out there who still know the pain and isolation because they have not yet heard of the hope that is available. We have been in the trenches. We know the fight. And it is imperative that we don’t find hope all the while forgetting the struggle and with it those who still struggle.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. (SAMHSA) in 2016 almost 45,000 people died by suicide. That is out of the 1.3 Million people who attempt suicide every year. And 9.8 million people a year consider suicide as an option!* We still have so much work to do!

If we consider that according to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) roughly 1 in 5 people (18.5%) will experience some sort of mental illness this year or 43.8Million people**, and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) only “25% of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness”***, then we need to not just focus on all of the deaths but the millions of lives that feel as if the world doesn’t care. Don’t forget all of the people who live with those people and are impacted indirectly.

The numbers are so overwhelming!!!

But these numbers are no reason to give up. They are reason to press in even more! And if we who know the struggle will turn around and help others who are in the struggle then those numbers can change. If we remember that mental health struggles are not limited to one month of the year and we continue to spread a message of hope then we can change those negative numbers in a positive direction.

If you grow weary of the battle take heart in this; for all of the negative numbers remember the millions of people who have received hope over the years. And the ONE life, your life, that can make all of the difference in one more life. You matter. Your story matters. If you have breath then you have opportunity. Seize it!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Nate Stewart

National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery

 

*https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml#part_154973
**https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers
***http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/data-behavioral-health.aspx

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