Commentary #46: How The U.S. and Others Work with Mental Health Issues (Follow-Up to “A 700-Year-Old Haven for Mental Health”)


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Back in October (Wow! Where did the time go?) I wrote a post about the amazing town of Geel, Belgium, and their remarkable approach to mental health and helping those in desperate need of care.

In case you missed it, here’s the link to the original post:

In my original post, I mentioned how I wanted to research how the U.S., other countries, and even other continents approach mental health issues, and how they are addressing them.

Are they like Geel? Or completely different?

It’s taken a long time to compile this research, so bear with me. My eyes have certainly been opened!

Through my research, it’s become clear to me that the United States in particular has a long, long way to go before reaching a place like Geel. Stigma is everywhere. However, I found some encouraging articles and resources.

The Washington Post published an article entitled Three innovative ways to address mental health issues in June 2014. This article focused primarily on children’s mental health, but this is as equally important, if not more so, to devote time and resources as adult mental health.

Published through Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, the web page titled Community Recovery in the United States was intriguing. There are established programs modeled after Geel in the U.S., but only in certain states. This makes me wonder if there could be community recovery programs eventually established in every state, so that anyone can have access? Granted, this page has not been updated since 2009, but still, I like that these resources have been highlighted.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University has created a unique Rehabilitation Research and Training Center that focuses on helping those with psychiatric difficulties be independent in their communities: Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities.

Around the world, there are several organizations that have mental health initiatives. However, there is still much work to be done to help those with mental disorders.

In an article from Wake Forest University in North Carolina from November 2009, Addressing mental-health issues around the world discussed the Mental Health Facilitators (MHF) program that started through a request from the World Health Organization (WHO).

From the Huffington Post in April 2016, Addressing Global Mental Health Challenges and Finding Solutions was a blog post about the author’s work with the International Medical Corps and other non-government organizations (NGOs) to help address these crises all over the world. In 2016, it’s incredibly sad that nine out of 10 that have mental disorders do not receive basic treatment.

Published on August 1, 2016 by the BJPsych Bulletin (Royal College of Psychiatrists, a charity registered in England, Wales, and Scotland), this fascinating article entitled Lessons to be learned from the oldest community psychiatric service in the world: Geel in Belgium was an exploration of the family foster care model that’s worked for so long.

On December 14th, I discovered some encouraging news from my own state of Virginia:

This was published by Richmond news station WRIC.

I read and re-read this article, at least three times. This proposal is full of promise, but it’s just a proposal. Thirty-one million dollars is good chunk of change, but I’m a bit skeptical. I hope it will come to fruition, but it’s going to take time.

I plan to keep following this particular story very closely.

In addition, here are other resources that you may be interested in:

Final Thoughts

It was frustrating and a bit disheartening to write this post, hence why it took so long to finally publish. As someone who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it’s hard to read statistics and stories that show so limited resources, historically, being dedicated to mental health.

However, I’m happy that more attention is being given, and that more organizations are working every single day to make changes. I’m glad there are resources available to many, but it would be nice to see equal resources be available to all. That herculean effort takes time, money, and dedication.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #5: Follow-Up To “Godless Parents Are Doing A Better Job”

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“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you’d want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live.” – Jesse Ventura

I don’t agree with this entire quote, but “It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business” speaks volumes.

Curious? Read on.

Recently, I published a post commenting on the article titled “Godless Parents Are Doing A Better Job.”

Didn’t get a chance to read it yet? Check it out.

When I published the post, the first response I got was from my friend Justin. He messaged me on Facebook, saying: “It wasn’t bad. The only thing I think you might have included is the fact that you may be expecting questions from people in your church (or other people) on how to raise them, and how you will know that your blood runs in their veins and that alone gives you the right to raise them as you see fit, religion or no religion …”

I was very pleasantly surprised to look at my WordPress stats page later on and see 25 views – Wow!

Then I went back to Facebook, and noticed two things about the “likes” on my post with the link:

  1. Only one person, at that time, was associated with my church.
  2. All of the “likes” were from people who are all under the age of 40.

This was interesting to me.

I’m not trying to make assumptions here, but I feel like people either

(a) didn’t see the post, or

(b) chose to ignore it.

Religion is one of those touchy topics. It’s very polarized. It tends to light fires under people.

For me, I don’t want to start fires or make anyone my enemy here.

I just want to have a civilized discussion on this subject, with anyone who is willing to listen and participate.

And that previous sentence right there is where some of the issue is. A lot of people don’t listen well. I’m getting better at it, every day. It’s hard to listen when you have an opinion, an agenda, or something to say – Trust me! I’ve gotten so wrapped up in talking, and thinking about what to say next, that I realize, after the conversation has long ended, that I was barely listening.

Over the last few weeks, since I published the original post, I started reflecting on several things:

  • My current view on the church (the church in general, but focusing on the church that I currently attend)
  • Observing the families in my current church
  • The people who I most closely associate with, and their views on the church and raising children
  • My vision for my future (concentrating on the next year)

When I first wrote the original post, it was tough for me to get my thoughts sorted out and somewhat straight. That’s why it took so long for me to write that post!

In my reflections, with time, I found myself less confused. I started seeing things a little more clearly.

I believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I’m living proof of that, literally. I was not supposed to survive my entry into this world, but I did. I should have had many more medical and developmental challenges, but thanks to my parents and doctors and a host of others, I didn’t.

This belief has continued throughout my time on this Earth. I believe that I was with John for so long to teach me how love can be flawed. I know that staying with John for so long, although awful and terrible and terrifying for half of it, helped me connect with Nick, and that led me to Al 🙂

My current view of the church, as a whole, is a bit skewed. My current church has been going through transition, for some time now, with membership in steady decline and the recent announcement that our senior pastor slated to leave this summer and a new one to come in. Also, this is the church that I have been attending almost every Sunday since I was four years old.

But as a 26-year-old, who is to be married in about seven months and planning to have a family one day, I’m not happy with the church. I feel smothered almost. It’s getting harder to smile on Sundays. If it weren’t for me being on the multi-media team and helping my parents out with Sunday School and blood drives on a regular basis, I wouldn’t see myself attending.

I go for the social aspect, to see the friendly faces. I’m becoming more withdrawn from the church services; less interested in worship, the Bible readings, and the sermons. I’ve learned more from helping out in the children’s Sunday School classes, which to me is exciting and sad simultaneously. I feel more connected with our associate pastor at the moment, and one of the main reasons is because she is closer to my age.

Observing the families in my church, they are wonderful people. The kids are well-behaved, for the most part (The parents are a significant part of that overall issue, but that’s another blog post entirely). The Sunday School program that we have for grades 1-5 is awesome, but attendance is down drastically, due to our steadily declining membership.

For me, if I brought a child into this world tomorrow, I would hesitate to bring them to my church.

Do I want my child/children to be baptized as infants?

  • Yes.

Do I want my child/children to learn who God and Jesus are?

  • Yes.

Do I want my child/children to be raised in the same church that I was?

  • No.

Do I want my child/children to attend church regularly?

  • Yes. But only if they choose to do so.

I want to be a mom that gives my child/children choices. I don’t want to force them to do anything that they feel uncomfortable with, within reason. Moreover, if they don’t understand something, I want to help them learn. I don’t want to force them to participate in something without explanation.

With the church, I want to guide my child/children, trying to strike a balance between holding their hand in life and letting them go on their own to discover and explore. I want them to know how I was raised and what I learned – BUT – I don’t want to raise them exactly like I was raised. I want to do that on my own terms. I am not dictated by anyone. As the mother, I have the right to raise my child/children as I see fit.

I do not plan to raise them in the church that I was raised. That was my original plan, for many years. But I have lost faith in my church over several years, literally. I don’t feel inspired like I used to be. If I don’t feel that way, I don’t want to show that to my child/children.

Looking at my friends that I closely associate with, many of them don’t regularly attend church. I can only think of three or four that go to a church. And those three or four don’t have children, not yet, anyway.

Those that have children, and there aren’t many, I haven’t seen them at my church or involved in religious activities with their children.

To me, this is part of my generation. We were raised in the church, but our marriages and families are less involved in church and religion. And to me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I have several friends that do not identify with religion, or with God and Jesus. And to me, that has been so refreshing. Remember how I said earlier that I felt smothered in my church?

Meeting people and becoming friends with those that are not Christians or who are less involved with the church and religion as I have been – It’s been a breath of fresh air. It’s been eye-opening. I have had more deep discussions about religion and other societal topics with them than I have with many of my Christian friends and acquaintances.

That says something.

Like Jesse Ventura, I strive to live by the Golden Rule as well. I don’t want to tell people how they should live or how they should raise their children, so neither should they.

As I think about the next year, I’m very excited to be married to the love of my life in my church sanctuary. To me, my marriage ceremony in that sanctuary is symbolically closing a chapter of my life that has been Aldersgate.

I don’t plan to withdraw from Aldersgate entirely come November 15th, but I do plan to focus on my new marriage and new home for a while. If that means I don’t attend church as much or be as involved in favor of spending more time with my new husband and our commitments to each other, then that’s the way it will be. Aldersgate will always be a part of my life, no doubt about it. But my involvement will change.

As far as raising my child or children in the church, I don’t plan to be a completely “godless parent.” I plan to draw on my life experiences to give them as wonderful of a life that a mother can give.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂