Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mental Health Walk

As I was digging through folders of photos looking for the ones of the Greek Orthodox Church, I came across these pictures from the mental health walk. This walk was that very same weekend. I'm not sure what happened to me last fall. I have tons of photos and I didn't blog about any of them. Was I in some weird place last fall? I know that November and December were difficult because of Butch's death but what about the rest of the fall? Anyway, I'm back now and I'm glad. The sun is shining and the sky is blue and the tree pollen is thick as can be.

Our friends, Dean and Donna, have three beautiful children. Of course, their "children" aren't really children anymore. Their oldest is a newlywed living out of state and their youngest is still living at home (in middle school). Their middle son has suffered from mental illness for several years. They have begun to share openly about him and his illness and their family. They have become advocates for him. I went to the NAMI website and these are just a few facts about mental illness - it is mind boggling to me:

  • Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person's "character" or intelligence. Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that One in four adults-approximately 57.7 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year
  • The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives at home, in school and with peers.
  • The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children.
  • Mental illness usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable. (source - NAMI - about mental illness)

  • So this year when Donna asked if anyone in our Sunday School class would like to participate in the walk, I thought, "I can do that." 

    The walk was at Railroad Park.  I had heard all about Railroad Park but had never been before.  Oh my goodness - right in the middle of downtown/southside - an oasis!!  I couldn't believe it.  My daddy was an engineer for the L & N Railroad and I wish he were alive so he could go with me to see Railroad Park . . .right there by all those railroad tracks!!!

    The day was lovely.  The park is landscaped with all native plants.

    The walk was short.  We just made one big loop around the park.  There were quite a few folks who suffer from mental illness who were participating. . . including Dean and Donna's son.  It was so good to see him.  He lives in an apartment . . in a group home sort of atmosphere . . .and I had not seen him in quite some time.  My gifts do not lie in working with the sick - physically or mentally and I never know what to say. . . so I just said, "hey!"  Maybe that is good . . .just regular old "hey" . . .just like I would say to anyone.  I try to send him handwritten notes - about one a month or so - I know he thinks I'm probably sort of weird.  I try to think of different things to say in the notes.

    Don't you just love how the park is right there . . you can see the buildings in our downtown area . . .and you can see the train tracks . . .and then you can see the grass . . .there is also a nice pavilion.

    There are lovely flowers.

    I've walked in the Race for the Cure before and their are hundreds and hundreds of participants . . . this race was much smaller.  We need to do more to raise awareness about mental illness.  We need to do more to raise funds for research.

    Back to the pictures . . .there was lots of fun conversation as we walked!!  Our friend, Angela, was walking in front of us and snapped this one of us as we walked and talked.

    There are nice benches and there is a nice play area just around this water feature and to the right (sorry you can't see it!).

    This week, our Tuesday night study was about serving . . .growing as a Christian by serving . . .and about how we need to get out of our comfort zone . . .it is easy to serve when we are comfortable but sometimes God calls us to serve in other places . . .places where we have to grow.  One of the Focus Points from the lesson was:  "The practice of Risk-Taking Mission and Service pushes us out of our comfort zone and into places we would never go on our own, which involves learning to overcome fear."  If we pay careful attention to our natural tendencies, we discover that we desire to move away . . .Fear and anxiety move us to secure and predictable territory.  But if we listen deep within our soul, we discover that something inside us also draws us toward the suffering.  Every human soul that harbors the tendency to avoid suffering also houses the capacity to respond compassionately.

    Now I realize that you are probably thinking that walking a short loop around railroad park was not "service."  Maybe for you that might not be service . . .but maybe for me that was an act of service . . .and an act of service that was out of my comfort zone. . . .and maybe it caused me to grow. . . just a little.

    I realize that this post was all over the place . . .I showed you pics of Railroad Park.  I talked about mental illness.  I talked about service.  I guess my musings are just that way today (actually on lots of days). 

    When I got back to the car, I took a picture of my red-faced self . . .did it - yes, I did :-)

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