Something extra-special


It’s not often that a person with serious mental health problems gets the chance to make something big happen. Something like the Living Room faith-based support groups I started in 2006. Many individuals came into my life uplifting me in my faith and courage. When I look back at my 55 years with bipolar disorder, 20 of those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, I realize how important those people have been to me.

But I would have to thank one person in particular who believed in me in a way few of us with mental health issues are believed in. This person allowed me to follow my passion to make a difference in the lives of people with mental health problems—people like myself.

In 2006, mental health wasn’t talked about or understood much. But the person who I’m talking about became informed at a leader’s mental health workshop—an event not common at the time. It was led by Dr. John Toews, a Christian psychiatrist and author of Mental Health and the Church. Now-a-days we have a more readily available access of learning through the Sanctuary Course.

My Riding the Roller Coaster had been published a few years before. That could have contributed to the trust I received. My faith and enthusiasm must have shown too. Before long, I was witnessing to the congregation. Eventually I was asked to help organize a mental health church service, featuring some of the members of my group as they spoke and sang. I was shown all this respect, despite my mental health challenges! I was never made to feel I was different from others, except for the fact that I was upholding a cause I felt strongly about.

The pastor asked the congregation: “We all need something meaningful to do. Do you have a vision for your life?”

I think to myself today, don’t we all need something meaningful to do, those with mental health challenges included? How can we find meaning when we feel so small? How can we get over our feelings of inferiority?

We need encouragement from our supporters to be confident. Not everyone is going to start a ministry from scratch. Nevertheless, we might find the confidence to lead a group. We all have gifts which—when given a chance—have the potential of leading us to a life that will help us feel we contributed.

Help those you support to explore what might be possible for them. Watch their self-assurance grow. I believe they would find hope, despite their mental health difficulties.

We need to be encouraged to believe in ourselves. Too many people with mental health issues are written off, not believed to be capable of anything worthwhile. But we all have potential. We all need to have a sense of self-worth.

It’s wrong to talk down to us, as some do, as though we can’t talk about things that matter. Having conditions like ours does not mean we lack intellect. Include us in a study group or form study groups for us where we can grow spiritually. Like everyone else, we want to share our belief in Jesus with others.

Encouraging a person with mental health issues to trust in God is of utmost importance. Christ’s love brings healing. There’s nothing better. His love gives us the security we need when we deal with conditions that bring anxiety. Having a strong faith gives us strength and courage to enable us to live for God in a meaningful way.

The encouragement I received when I founded Living Room, helped me feel worthy. But more than anything I was inspired by the knowledge of God as One I could trust—God as One who loved me as no other. The person who trusted me with the creation of the Living Room ministry gave me the most precious gift of all. He encouraged me to trust God with my life, and to follow where he led me.

Today I wonder. If those who are too often looked down upon—by others and by themselves—were to be trusted as I was, could they not have opportunities for a more meaningful life as well?