As I write this article, we have just had Mental Health Awareness Week. It has been interesting to see that mental health issues affect so many people, even the people that we perceive as very successful. The statistic that is often used is that one in four people will struggle with mental health. It is therefore very likely that we will know someone who suffers with their mental health. Historically, mental health was not an issue that people would discuss, sadly people were either sent away or hidden away. It was an embarrassment or source of shame. I can not think of any illness that has such a poor understanding and acceptance. Thankfully those days are behind us and people are now willing to discuss and talk about their mental health. I still think there is a long way to go. It may seem that mental health issues are growing and increasing. It is now more likely to be something that people are willing to talk about and it is now more evident. It seems slightly ironic that one of the most important treatments revolves around talking therapy, yet often people are unwilling to talk about or even admit to the problem.
It has always been very important to be able to talk and learn from each other. We rarely are on our own and often have people around us who are willing to support and help us. It seems almost impossible to be out of touch with people in these days of modern technology, although it is portrayed as a disaster if the internet or mobile signal is lost! Yet, we seem to have lost that direct contact of talking to someone face to face. The great skill is of course in listening, without being heard and responded to appropriately there is no conversation. It is a two-way process of giving and taking, not a monologue where we try to offload all of our problems. There is good evidence to suggest that loneliness is becoming a bigger problem. People are becoming isolated and left behind. It is increasingly a problem of older people yet it can affect people of all ages.
One of the aspects of God’s love we learn from Jesus’ teaching is the compassion God has for the lost, marginalised and the outcast. Jesus’ parables speak of finding the lost, for example the lost sheep, the lost coin and lost a son. Jesus tells us that there is more rejoicing in heaven over finding the one lost person than ninety-nine righteous persons. As we learn how God views each and every one of us with great value and importance. We should do likewise and value the people around us. It may be we have to reconnect with people we have lost touch with or make the time to stop and listen and help someone who feels isolated or lonely. We can all make a difference if we try to help others.
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) firstname.lastname@example.org