William Wilberforce, the British slave trade abolitionist, once said, “It is inconceivable that we could be bored in a world with so much wrong to tackle, so much ignorance to reach and so much misery we could alleviate.”

I’m certainly not bored. I only wish I were younger so that I would have more time to speak to the wrongs I see in the world—to help a well-intentioned world see that there is something important missing in their efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

What’s missing are the voices of the people for whom the whole effort is intended—the many who, like me, know better than anyone what mental illness is about, because we live it. Our points of view are too often dismissed.

An extreme example from church life was how Living Room groups, a ministry that had—among other things—the role of feeding the spiritual needs of people with mental illness, was withdrawn by a church organization.  It was felt that the peer support offered was not as important as raising awareness amongst supporters from the Church. My voice, raised in protest, was disregarded .

We are not invited to be a part of things. The world, including the Church, has become adjusted to the attitudes that exist towards people like me. Those attitudes that make us feel like we’re less worthy than others and that we have no credibility. We are shunned and disrespected. Our needs ignored.

But such attitudes have been around for so long, they’re almost accepted. People don’t see the injustice. “That’s just the way it is, the way it’s always been.” But people’s lives are affected. Their self-esteem suffers. They come to think they’re not worthy of the kind of lives others have. This is wrong. And wrongs need to be set right.

Except for some bad mistakes, Christianity has led the way in social reform ever since Jesus. And in the way the Church accepted its role as supporter of people with mental health challenges, it could also lead the way in changing the attitudes towards those who are being looked down on. We have the love of Christ within us, after all.

Acceptance and support is not all that’s important. Helping those who are supported feel good about themselves is equally important. Christ followers could be helping people with low self-esteem build confidence. They could help them realize that they have great worth, able to be givers as well as receivers.

I’m convinced that this is what God calls us to do. In the past, he has proven what he can do. Remember what Jesus said, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23). Do you believe?

God calls on us to be his presence as we walk alongside those who need him. As friends, helping them grow to be the people he intended them to be. It’s God’s work. Our role is to be the hand that holds his pen and the voice that speaks his words.