The story of Roger Self – a father and grandfather dealing with severe depression – has shaken me. The Self Family had worshiped together in church last Sunday and were eating dinner at The Surf and Turf Lodge in Bessemer City, NC when Roger left the table, got into his car, and drove the car into the restaurant. The crash killed his daughter and his daughter-in-law. Three other family members were injured.
Once again hearts are crushed and lives have changed forever because of serious mental illness. Mr. Self has been charged with first degree murder and it’s yet to be seen whether or not his depression will factor into his defense.
A troubled young man in Santa Fe, Texas murdered ten human beings at his high school on Friday, May 18. It was the 22nd high school or college school shooting in 2018.
Not all of those shootings involved mental illness necessarily, but most of the shooters dealt with issues ranging from grief to depression. Mental illness affects 43 million Americans but 56% of those Americans do not have access to mental health services according to Mental Health America. You can read their entire 2018 State of Mental Health in America report here.
If you are a Bible reader, note that Jesus healed both physical and mental illness. We now know that mental health is also a physical issue involving body chemistry. Bonus disclosure for those of you who have kept reading to this point: I am one of those people who takes medicine for depression. I thank God for that.
What can we in the Church do to address the enormous needs in this area?
- Instead of asking difficult people in our lives, “What’s wrong with you?” ask “Tell me about your childhood.” Learn about ACEs and be the kind of community that works to love the hard-to-love.
- Become certified in Mental Health First Aid. All pastors, educators, and community leaders need this training. Our people in church pews as well as the people outside our church walls are dealing with things.
- Teach about, talk with, and pray for people struggling with mental health issues. Make it part of normal conversation and ministry. If nothing else, people are stressed and we in the Church can contribute to that stress or offer sacred relief.
God loves Roger Self, who is identified in the press as “a church-goer.” And God loves all of us who are grappling with everything from situational stress to paralyzing depression. We in the Church are called to minister to those who suffer in mind and in body. How are we doing?
Image is Old Man in Sorrow by Vincent van Gogh (1890)
As Dr. William Pollack, world renown author, child psychologist and leader in the study of unexpected violence in young boys, implies in his book Real Boys, the pressure cooker in troubled boys is difficult for us to see. There is real pain and without a kind, caring, listening ear, these boys live not knowing when they will be triggered into violence. It is a mental illness often caused by social pressures heaped on developing minds that are too young to understand. The epidemic of mental confusion and lack of empathy deserves all our prayers, attention and time. Our eyes must be opened so we do not ignore their pain and suffering.
Excellent advice – should be mandatory!