Depression is real. And it is treatable and manageable. At three junctures I started my life over again. When life-as-I-knew-it ended, I started life anew essentially with few resources. Each time, I found a new life filled with purpose and meaning and happiness I never considered available to me.
Negativity in all of forms robs one of the possibility for future happiness and success. We must at every turn examine our lives and remove all obstacles that read negativity. Let's keep ourselves under constant personal surveillance for negativity in all of its forms.
Life is too short!
Have you ever had periods of the blues during the winter months?
Five Ways You Can Fight SAD
November 03, 2016
When daylight saving time ends on November 6, some people will celebrate. After all, what’s better than being able to sleep in for an extra hour on Sunday? Or, being able to get your kids to bed just a little earlier since it turns dark by 5 PM now? But for others, daylight saving time marks the beginning of a long, cold couple of months made even gloomier by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that affects around five percent of the country’s total population each year. SAD can affect anyone, but those particularly at risk include younger people, and those who live farther away from the equator—because the amount of winter daylight becomes shorter the farther you are from the equator, and darkness can make SAD symptoms more severe. The exact cause of SAD is currently unknown, but some possibilities include problems in the sleep cycle, chemical changes in the brain, and factors inherited from relatives. The good news? There are ways to manage SAD. If you or someone you know deals with SAD during the winter months, read on:
Dr. Merle McCann is the service chief of the Adult Crisis Stabilization Unit at Sheppard Pratt Health System, and specializes in mood disorders. He is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland Hospital, School of Medicine and president-elect of the Maryland Psychiatric Society.
What do you do? The person you love is out of control and is not listening to you. You know its going to end badly for both of you. No cooperation. Only denial. Here are some practical things one can do for their loved one, and themselves.
Fast Talk: Dealing With DenialEventually, we need to face the facts about our reality and diagnoses
By Julie A. Fast
It can be upsetting, stressful, and downright incomprehensible when someone with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder denies the illness and refuses treatment. You may find yourself watching helplessly as behaviors tied to untreated bipolar lead to family distress, broken relationships, problems at school and work, money woes, and alcohol and drug abuse.
If you try to help someone in denial, you will probably be accused of interfering if you even mention the word bipolar. This is confusing because it’s very easy for you to see what’s wrong, and naturally you want to point out the problem in hopes that the person will then get help. Often, however, your attempt just makes things worse.
It hurts when a person in denial shuts you out, but it’s common.
What’s even more confusing is that you can have an honest conversation about bipolar when your loved one is stable, reviving your hopes that the person will enter or stick with treatment. Then boom! Here comes the denial again.
It may be cold comfort to learn that it is very typical behavior for people with bipolar disorder to deny they are sick and avoid treatment, even if they have been in the hospital or taken medications for the illness in the past.
It’s important to remember that people in denial are usually miserable, in a great deal of internal pain, and can’t see a way out. It’s easy to believe they really can’t see what’s going on, but unless denial is a result of a mood swing such as strong maniaor paranoia, the affected individuals usually know what is happening. They respond to your concern with aggression because they are trying to protect their decision to deny the illness.
It hurts when a person in denial shuts you out, but it’s common. The person prefers to be around others who don’t mention the illness, and will paint you as the bad guy because you are the one who is stating the truth.
There is good news, however. I’ve talked with hundreds of people who moved through denial to eventually admit that bipolar is at the root of their problems and they needed help. Over and over I’ve been told how despite their relentless inner pain and confusion, they refused help and pushed away the people who cared about them.
It’s when someone realizes that they no longer want a life controlled by bipolar disorder that they begin to listen to loving advice instead of fighting back.
Steps toward change
Find the sweet spot. Are there periods when your loved one is more open to discussion? Often people are more receptive during a mild depression. Once you see a pattern in your loved one’s moods, you’ll have a better sense of when to gently start a conversation.
Set expectations. If a loved one with bipolar is living with you, you have the right to set expectations for behaviors such as drug use, drinking, yelling, staying in bed all day, staying out all hours and, yes, refusing treatment. You are always in control of what works best for you. It’s not always about the person with the illness. It will be up to you to decide the consequences if your expectations aren’t met.
Understand the challenges. Always remember that bipolar is an illness. No one chooses to have bipolar disorder. People in denial can be very unpleasant and it’s easy to walk away from them, but don’t forget they are suffering. It’s OK to address this directly. Go ahead and say you understand that it must be hard to have someone tell you what to do. Say that you can tell the person feels misunderstood. People in denial may get angry or refuse to reply, but they have heard you. Many times, when they get better, they will tell you they heard you.
Hold on to hope. I’ve known many people who accepted treatment after years of denial, often when loved ones learn simple strategies and get them help at the right time. It isn’t easy to hang on until then. Nothing with bipolar disorder is easy! But bipolar is treatable, even for those who currently refuse to admit they are ill.
Printed as “Fast Talk: The Denial Factor”, Summer 2011
I gained a better understanding of my role and limitations by reading the follow ing article. I trust you find it beneficial also.
10 Ways to Support Someone with Bipolar
When family and friends understand how things are for those of us with bipolar, it helps move us along the road to recovery and helps us all live more harmoniously.
By Stephen Propst
For those of us who have bipolar disorder, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can go it alone. While one of the most profound determinants of making a positive recovery is having support from family and friends, supporting someone with a chronic illness is not easy. When family and friends understand how things are for those of us with bipolar, it helps move us along the road to recovery and helps us all live more harmoniously.
For those who support us, there are ways to reduce stress, improve relationships, and make for a better overall quality of life for everyone. Whether the person has been diagnosed as having bipolar and is compliant, or refuses to admit that anything is even wrong, having the right attitude and the necessary basic knowledge is key. Here are 10 points to keep in mind if you’re serious about offering support that helps, not hinders.
1. Never give up hopeLooking back, the first 10 years of my more than two decades of dealing with bipolar disorder were a seemingly insurmountable struggle, but my loved ones never gave up hope. Despite a situation that often created frustration and hopelessness, they never doubted my recovery. Today, they continue to instill that same undying confidence.
There is one piece of advice for anyone who loves someone with bipolar disorder, and it is this: keep the faith and never give up. There have been many times when there was nothing but hope, and you have living proof that it kept me going. So, let your hope for a loved one spread--it’s contagious.
2. Take some timeTime is one of the hardest concepts to convey to people. We all want immediate results, but with bipolar disorder, so-called overnight success can, in fact, extend to years. Studies show that it can take 10 years or more to even obtain an accurate diagnosis (Living with Bipolar Disorder: How Far Have We Really Come? Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance [DBSA] Constituency Survey, 2001). In my own case, it took eight years before someone accurately put a name to my struggle.
With bipolar disorder, there are simply no quick fixes. Thinking there is a miracle cure only makes matters worse, so instead, help your loved one set realistic goals. The road to recovery is not a straight shot; it’s a winding path with delays, downtimes, and detours. Remember progress can be made, but it takes time. Let patience be your guide.
3. Face the factsBe willing to acknowledge that bipolar disorder is a legitimate disorder. Saying something like, “It’s all in your head,” or “Just snap out of it,” denies that reality. As with diabetes or cancer, bipolar disorder requires medical treatment and management. And as with other chronic conditions, bipolar disorder is initially unfamiliar and frequently unpredictable. It can be gut-wrenching and at times, scary.
It also helps to face the facts when it comes to our current mental health system. If you find it to be disorganized and disconnected, imagine what the patient is experiencing. With your support, a patient can be guided through the maze, find the best care, and stick to a workable treatment plan.
4. Adopt the right attitudeHow you see things does matter. With the amount of stigma and discrimination that exist in society at large, the last thing a patient needs is misguided thinking coming from family and friends. More support is needed, not more shame. The more your response is based on reality and not on myths, the more your support can make a difference.
All too often, family members make a loved one feel as though it isn’t bipolar but rather a character flaw or something brought on by the person. Some even view an occasional setback as though it spells permanent doom. Such flawed thinking may be common, but it’s harmful to the person facing bipolar disorder who needs constructive feedback, not destructive rhetoric.
5. Get educatedPeople who have bipolar disorder often deny that anything’s wrong, and frequently, they don’t stay on their medications. It’s important to learn about these and other nuances of the disorder. Fortunately, there are many resources available today, especially compared to 25 years ago, not the least of which is the Internet.
A national clothing store uses the slogan: “An educated consumer is our best customer.” To support your loved one, consider adopting a similar notion. An educated family member or friend is our best advocate and our greatest source of support.
6. Treat us like adultsA psychiatrist once commented that my body (at the time) was 30-years-old physically, but I was 45 intellectually, and 15 emotionally. Talk about a tough pill to swallow! Bipolar disorder can arrest a person’s emotional maturity and produce behavior that appears very childish and reckless.
Please remember, however, that while someone who has bipolar may act like a child, there is an adult underneath. The world of the person who has bipolar disorder can be full of chaos and confusion, and low self-esteem is common. It can make a big difference when you continue to acknowledge and show respect for the grown human being who is struggling behind all the symptoms.
7. Give us some spaceLiving with a serious illness is a daunting task. It can be a foreign concept to separate yourself from someone you want to help. But as a support person, it is best to establish a loving distance between yourself and the person who has bipolar.
Set boundaries and establish consequences that encourage those who have bipolar to seek recovery on their own, all the while expressing your concern and willingness to help. Be supportive, patient, and understanding—without being used. Effective encouragement is helpful; enabling is not.
An educated family member or friend is our best advocate and our greatest source of support.
8. Forget the pastFrustration often accompanies bipolar disorder. Family and friends can spend countless hours—if not years—wondering what went wrong. Avoid making matters worse by wallowing in the past.
Pointing fingers solves nothing, blaming is not the answer, and getting angry only makes matters worse. Bitterness and resentment can sometimes act as a trigger and incite more of the behavior you want to stop. Instead, focus on helping make tomorrow better. That’s true support.
9. Take care of yourselfThe family suffers right along with the person who has bipolar disorder, so, it’s important for you to develop your own coping skills. Only if you take care of yourself can you help. All too often caregivers end up becoming ill.
During training, emergency medical technicians are taught to never put their lives in obvious jeopardy to save someone else’s. If they did so, they’d be unable to help anyone. Likewise the same is true for you while you are caring for your loved one. Remember that you have yourself—and probably others—to care for as well.
10. Find a healthy balanceThere are so many questions: “How much should I be willing to do?” “Should we use tough love?” “How long does this go on?” “How long should we wait before we intervene?” and on and on and on. Bipolar disorder is tough. It’s like walking a tightrope sometimes, where you’ve got to learn to balance your own welfare with the interest you have in supporting the person with bipolar.
You also have to find a healthy balance when it comes to the support you offer. Learn to take things in stride, one day at a time. There’s a time to help and a time to step back; a time to speak and a time to listen; a time to be patient and a time to be insistent.
Now, you have some valuable points to ponder as you help your loved one pursue recovery. The more you’re in the know, the better equipped you are to offer the type of support that can make a positive difference. The reward is a brighter, happier future—for everyone involved.
I know it’s worth the effort.
Printed as “Points to ponder: Help from parents, partners, and pals”, Fall 2005 bphope.com
October is a special month because it has a variety of mental health "awareness" days:
How Can Mental Health Screening Help?
Screening for Mental Health
Do you think mental health screening can help address deficiencies in our nation’s approach to diagnosing the treating mood disorders? Policymakers certainly think so: mental health screening is an essential component of several pieces of legislation, incorporating the finding that early detection of mental health conditions increases the likelihood of successful treatment.
Mental health screening is private and anonymous, cost-effective, quick, and accessible, and it provides information and encouragement for people to seek help early. This Thursday is National Depression Screening Day, so there’s still time to rally your network to participate! Here, the nonprofit organization Screening for Mental Health tells why screening is important and how it supports workplace mental health.
Why mental health matters in the workplace
It is estimated that about one-third of those with a mental illness are employed. And according to the National Institute on Mental Illness, nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce (28 million workers ages 18-54) will experience a mental or substance abuse disorder. Despite these significant statistics, 71 percent of workers with mental illnesses have never sought help from a medical or mental health specialist for their symptoms.
When left untreated, mental illness can be costly both to the individual and the workforce, even more so if an employee’s depression is linked to substance abuse.
• A RAND Corporation study found that patients with depressive symptoms spend more days in bed than those with diabetes, arthritis, back problems, lung problems, or gastrointestinal disorders
• Depression accounts for close to $12 billion in lost workdays each year
• More than $11 billion in other costs accrue from decreased productivity due to symptoms that cause problems with energy levels, concentration, memory, and decision making.
As we know, the good news for employers and employees is that depression is treatable. According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority (60-80 percent) of people with depression will improve with proper diagnosis and treatment.
How screening helps workplace mental health
Early intervention and prevention programs can be integral in managing symptoms of mental illness and improving treatment outcomes. Anonymous online screenings are an effective way to reach employees who need help the most. A screening program can also work well for small organizations that lack official EAP services. Quality mental health programs for employees can reduce stigma, raise awareness, teach managers how to recognize symptoms and help organizations effectively assist depressed employees.
It is important to assess work environments for effective mental health policies and programs. From employee morale to the company’s bottom line, mental health can affect all areas of the workplace. When the mental health of one employee is prioritized, the entire organization will benefit.
“Help Yourself, Help Others” to Get Screened on October 10
The nonprofit Screening for Mental Health offers National Depression Screening Day programs for the military, colleges and universities, community-based organizations, and businesses. Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) raises awareness and screens people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders. This year, NDSD is on Thursday, October 10.
NDSD is the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program that provides referral information for treatment. Through the program, more than half a million people each year have been screened for depression since 1991. Anonymous online depression screenings are available for the public at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.
When you had a concern about your (or a loved one’s) mental health, have you used an online screening? How did it help?
Does your employer offer mental health screenings or other programs for a mentally healthy workplace?
For more information on participating in National Depression Screening Day please contact Michelle Holmberg at 781-239-0071 or by email. Information is also available at the Screening for Mental Health website and www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org.
Care for Your Mind has several posts about workplace mental health! Click on the “workplace” tag in the right-hand column.
I must say, I am concerned for my grandchildren at times. They are young kiddos enjoying their devices at length. Of course, I want for them to develop a healthy balance in their relationship with these awesome (and permanent) extensions of humanity. Yet, how do they learn and keep balance in the ever changing landscape of technology? I'm not the only grand parent in my circle of friends with these same concerns.
I found this article in the Huffington to be very "real" and insightful into the world of a peer specialist. Have you given a peer specialist a hug today?
The Peer Specialist: A Vital Professional in Mental Health Care
Brewing within my heart is something of a heroic character. My calling is mental health awareness and stigma fighting. I want to become directly involved in the lives of people who suffer. I want to get to know them on a personal level, and create a rapport where I make a long-term commitment to that person’s health and wellness. I want to make a difference in this world. And if I can change even one life for someone, that is worth more than gold to me.
Luckily, I fulfill this desire of mine by working in non-profit. While the salary could always be better, I work with people who are similarly passionate about social welfare. My agency offers housing to people with mental illness disabilities, and we additionally provide case management services to an involved degree. We coordinate everything from their doctors’ appointments to monthly checks.
And my job specifically? I am employed as a “peer specialist.” A peer specialist is a mental health professional who has personal lived experience with mental illness. Peers have suffered mental strife themselves, and so they are able to understand and empathize with their clients. This type of experience cannot be learned in university. And so, peers have expertise that doctors and social workers do not.
It is a pity, that the peer career is all but a hushed secret in the field of mental health. Observe: I grew up in Queens, New York… began therapy services at the age of ten, started medications at fourteen, developed schizophrenia at twenty-two, went on disability at twenty-six. There were many medications tried, ninety pounds gained, seven hospitalizations in all… if you were to add up the time I’ve lived in hospitals, you’d have twenty-seven weeks. Some of those stays did not grace me with a daily fresh air break of fifteen minutes, while other places were more benevolent.
Yet never did I hear about peer specialists. An absolute shame, given that I even live in that massive metropolis of New York City. If peers are unknown here, how dismal it may be in other communities around the world. Perhaps I come across as snotty New Yorker here, but I am more concerned than anything.
I learned about the peer career when I was in a psychiatric rehabilitative program in 2012. Once I heard about it, I instantly wanted to become one myself. I applied to a peer specialist training program at a school called Howie the Harp Advocacy Center, and was accepted. In 2013, I attended classes at Howie five days a week, totaling to 500 classroom hours. Following was a 12-week internship at an agency in Queens, where I was then hired for a full-time position. At Howie, my education was extensive, and many prominent people in the peer specialist community gave guest lectures, in addition to the curriculum imparted by the regular staff.
The very name of the school, Howie the Harp, is named after a specific person who was one of the first pioneers in the peer movement. Howard Geld was psychiatrically hospitalized as a teenager in the late 60s. At age seventeen, he left New York and relocated to the west coast, where he eventually became involved in the Insane Liberation Front. During his life, he was involved in mental health advocacy efforts on the east and west coasts. He earned his moniker of “Howie the Harp” because he was a street performer on the harmonica. In 1993, he became the Director of Advocacy for a social service organization in New York called Community Access. He garnered funds to start a peer specialist training center, slated to open in 1995. Unfortunately, he passed away two weeks before the school opened. The school was then named after him in his honor.
While attending Howie, I learned that there is an actual peer movement, which strives to create awareness about mental illness akin to a civil rights movement. Over the years, it has been called various titles: the Psychiatric Survivors movement, the Peer Movement, the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Movement, and so forth. The overall sentiment is captured in the statement of “Nothing about us without us.” So often, psychiatric clients are stripped of their rights, whether it be within the walls of institutions, or in the office of their psychiatrist. People are forced into treatments they don’t want for themselves. People feel intimidated by doctors, and feel forced to take their medications. And then there is stigma. That pervasive societal attitude that disparages and demeans those who have a diagnosis.
Hearing about this social effort has fueled my own desire to get involved in the movement. Now today, I have various online ventures where I strive to help this mission. I run a Facebook wellness group, called “What is Wellness? A Mental Health Discussion Group.” We have monthly meetups in New York City, and my hope is that there will be regional meetings as more members join. I also keep a personal blog, and am a contributor of essays and poetry to various sites. Much of my writings are inspired by the mental illness experience.
Additionally at Howie, I learned about the “recovery model,” which is in stark contrast to the “medical model.” Typically, when one is physically ill, s/he will go to the doctor to remedy the situation. The doctor will prescribe a medication or perhaps surgery and whatnot, and the treatment is determined successful if the person’s symptoms are eradicated. However, this is not sufficient for achieving mental health wellness. For example, if one experiencing mania, taking medications may successfully remove this behavior. However, side effects could cause one to have a flatness that numbs one to all emotions, or perhaps the person will gain a lot of weight. There may even result permanent physical maladies. Very often, psychiatric patients are told by professionals that they will “never be able to have a full-time job,” or they’ll “never be able to be in a relationship.” Such negative predictions only serve more to defeat a person’s spirit.
The recovery model maintains that the medical model of mere symptom management is not enough to ensure true mental wellness. Side effects can often compromise one’s quality of life to the point that the “cure” still causes substantial suffering. With the recovery model, the idea is that recovery goes beyond this. Everyone is entitled to living a fulfilling and fruitful life. Those with mental illness should be encouraged and supported to reach for this level of wellness, no matter how “severe” their condition may seem.
I love being a peer, especially because I can be open with my having mental illness. Specifically, I am diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This condition profoundly impaired my life during my twenties, and I also suffered from depression as a child. I developed schizophrenia specifically at age 22, while in conservatory preparing to be a professional violist. I was forced to abandon a performing career, and took over a year to recover. I then attempted to restart my life by attending school to become a public school music teacher, but these plans were thwarted when I again had a psychotic attack. When I attempted to return to school, my professors were leery about letting me return to school.
“You’re rushing start school again.” An attitude of annoyance
“Are you safe around children?” An attitude of caution and alert.
These attitudes made me ashamed of my illness, and discouraged me from the teaching career. What kind of life would it be, if I had to live in the “mental illness closet” for the remainder of my professional life? The pressure would inevitably cause pressure and relapse, and would only confirm the attitude that I am “broken” and “dangerous.”
Being a peer specialist is incredibly liberating. Not only can I be open about my diagnosis, but my experiences are even seen as a strength. No longer do I need to feel that shame, but instead I can feel pride. Pride, that I have overcome the devastation that my mind once inflicted upon me. Gratitude, that I have many stories to tell and memories to recall which can help ease the pain of others.
Whenever I meet a new client at my job, I immediately make known what I am.
“Hello, I’m Neesa. I am a peer specialist. Do you know what a peer is?”
Oftentimes, the client does not know. And so I explain.
“A peer is a person who has mental illness themselves. I myself have a diagnosis of Schizoaffective disorder. I’ve been hospitalized seven times. I have been on disability since 2011. So I know where you’re coming from. I know how this system can really wear you down, trying to juggle the system of public assistance and Medicaid and psychiatrists… I’ve lived it. Just know… I’m here so that I can relate to you. I know where you’re coming from.”
Whenever I say this, I feel this invisible wall melt between me and the client. The client seems to become more relaxed, and it immediately becomes easier for me to casually chat with the person. My hope is to strike a chord within the person, wherein s/he can feel safe and open. On the job, I have learned that this type of relationship allows me encourage and inspire a client to reach for greater wellness and recovery in their own lives. This truly is the crux of the peer profession.
There are various other responsibilities that keep me busy on the job as well. I act as an advocate by accompanying clients on errands on public transit. Very often, they will need assistance with getting government documents such as birth certificates and non-driver’s IDs. The process of getting together the correct paperwork, and also traveling and waiting on lines can be very stressful for clients. But by being there with them, their anxiety is eased. I also visit clients at their homes and teach skills such as cooking and budgeting. The intent is that clients will learn skills that allow them to live with greater independence.
The greatest fulfillment I experience as a peer is developing that one-on-one relationship with the client. Conversing with them, getting to know them, and ultimately helping them feel more confident. Helping them to realize that they are in the driver’s seat of their own personal recovery and independence. I also try to personally “practice what I preach.” I aim for a high level of wellness in my own life, so as to be an example of it to my clients. I personally lost fifty pounds. I eat vegetables and eat no candy. I work out. I have hobbies and creative pursuits. I have many friends. To talk about wellness is one thing, but to actually live it is something else. I attempt to demonstrate this, recovery, in my own life.
I also channel my creativity into my current peer work. I run an all-day recreation group at the office on Sundays, and clients are free to come and chill. (During the week, the office is primarily used for office and administrative purposes, and clients do not go there typically.) We watch movies and YouTube videos, and I also have a collection of high-quality art supplies, ranging from colored pencils to thick papers, collage supplies and even clay. All of these supplies I obtained free of charge from a wonderful non-profit organization called Materials for the Arts. I utilize my musical background by facilitating groups where we write songs together. I installed a small library, so residents enjoy reading. I even give individualized birthday cards and a small, inexpensive present each month. I take care in choosing a card that each client would enjoy, and I scrounge around trying to find free items that I can use for gifts.
I am happy to work for an agency that allows for me to make my work my own. So often, mental health recipients are bombarded with doctors and administrative paperwork and therapy groups, which can be very clinical and discouraging. I like to say that my job as a peer serves to “humanize” the services my agency offers.
My hope is that there soon will be widespread awareness about peer specialists. It is a wonderful career for a person with lived experience. Additionally, there are specific positions that are available for those with a substance abuse history and/or forensic background, in addition to mental illness. For me, being a peer empowers me. It now gives me a mission in life. I want to fight stigma. I want to give voice to those who suffer in silence. I want to unite all of us together.
Because together, that is how we change the world.
Neesa Suncheuri works as a mental health peer specialist at a housing agency in Queens, New York. She is the founder of a Facebook discussion group for peer specialists and other recovery enthusiasts, entitled “What is Wellness? A Mental Health Discussion Group.” Much of her creative inspiration is rooted in her now-tamed schizophrenia. She writes poetry and fiction, and maintains a blog called Unlearning Schizophrenia. She is also a singer/songwriter, and an enthusiast for the German language and culture. Follow her on Twitter at @neesasuncheuri
Not everyone remains in his or her inherited religion. Being a young minister in 1976, I stepped away from traditional church work. At that point, I finished my involvement with the business of “doing church” and the political initiatives and constant requests for money. In light of recent history, the church remains true to operating as a business with a more-secular-than-religious agenda.
My disappointment with the business and structure of church led me to fall out of love with church. But I did not fall out of love with God. Of course, my decision to leave church was difficult. And, I chose ultimately to leave organized religion and to create a not-for-profit organization to meet a neglected need in the community.
Finding my new life after leaving organized religion took time and effort. First, I found a group of supportive friends of faith to join in my new organization. Secondly, I created a personal faith system of my own. I based it on a reinterpretation of the popular themes of my prior faith system. After years of following my system, I recorded the tenants of it in my book, The Two Agreements: A Good News Story for Our Time. And, importantly, I found it most helpful to talk long hours with a non-judgmental friend, many years my senior and many years divorced from organized religion. Over coffee, I spoke freely about the swirl of emotions and thoughts around leaving my religion. Today, I am very happy living a spiritual life of my own choosing.
More Americans than ever are leaving their religion. Some who are questioning their faith can find professional support or mental health services to help them with challenges they may encounter. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Caleb Lack, explains how people can get secular-based professional help through his Secular Therapist Project. The Secular Therapist Project was founded by Psychologist, Darryl Ray in 2012 as part of the Recovering from Religion organization. Because people who are questioning or leaving their faith can feel isolated, the Recovering from Religion organization can help connect them with others facing these issues.
Dr. Lack decided to get involved in the Secular Therapist Project because many people had shared with him that when they'd sought treatment for mental health problems, they weren't necessarily getting the best care and some were being evangelized by their therapists. As an example, one woman who contacted Dr. Lack had sought treatment at her local Community Mental Health Center for help with stress and depression. The intake worker told her that if she would only accept Jesus into her life, her problems would be solved. Because of stories like these, Dr. Lack decided to join the Secular Therapist Project, which helps connect nonreligious clients with secular, evidence-based mental health professionals. Lack makes dozens of referrals per month. He has seen where people transitioning from being religious to being nonreligious need help dealing with feelings such as anger from being judged in a fundamentalist religious environment or sadness and grief from losing their church family.
Dr. Lack explains that if potential clients can't find a therapist on the Seculartherapy.org website, there are steps that they can take to keep from seeing someone who will evangelize to them. When trying to find an evidence-based therapist, clients can ask, “What is your primary therapeutic orientation?” and listen for words like “cognitive behavioral,” “interpersonal,” or “dialectical behavior therapy.” Clients can also ask, “How do you know that the type of therapy you do works?” and listen for talk about “research” or “meta-analysis” and avoid someone who only talks about their personal experience or how long they've been a therapist. Clients can also explain that they are nonreligious and are seeking someone who is comfortable with that.
Caleb W. Lack, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Central Oklahoma. He blogs at Great Plains Skeptic.
In Jan. I, 2010, a rally was held in Nashville. Larry and Linda gathered thousands of signatures on a petition requesting Gov. Haslam reconsider and expand Medicaid to include over 100,000 Tennesseans in health care coverage. They are tireless in their work. Personally, they are paying a huge personal price to have health care for Linda as she lives with a life threatening illness.
Take seven minutes to listen to them as they speak at the Tennessee capitol some years back. Today, they work continuously to achieve health care for Tennesseans.
Thank you, Larry and Linda for all of your hard work and sacrifice.
You did it.
Thanks to your advocacy, H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, passed unanimously (53-0) out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on Wednesday, June 15th.
Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) said, "I want to thank all the advocates. You are the ones who held our feet to the fire to get this passed."
Keep the fire going.
Let your members of Congress know that you appreciate the unanimous vote by the House Energy & Commerce Committee and urge them to bring a vote to the floor of the House and Senate.
S.L. Brannon D.Div..