How To Navigate The Voyage

I had just sat down in my car when I heard the back door open. As I had just hugged and said good bye to my son I just thought it was him wanting to tell me one more thing or maybe he left something in the back seat. As such, I was completely startled when a man started screaming at me. Instinctually, I jumped out of my car to confront him. Quickly assessing the intruder it was clear from his incoherent shouting that he was not in a good place…my posture changed from confrontational to compassionate. 

There is an epidemic of mental illness in our world. Many of the streets, alleys and underpasses of our cities are filled with individuals who are struggling mightily with their mental well being. Amidst it all we continue to be plagued with two presenting issues regarding mental health. First, even after decades of indisputable research there is a significant portion of society that still stigmatizes mental health challenges. Many continue to perpetuate an erroneous assumption that mental illness is predicated by a lack of psychological stamina. And as such, if the person could just ‘buck up’ they will be fine. Similarly, there is assumption that mental challenges are either self inflicted or perpetuated by someone else. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”(Jn 9:2).

The second issue is the woefully inadequate lack of access to metal health professionals. And while our health care system in general is struggling, if the same number of folks with physical medical issues went unattended at the same rate as mental health care patients there would be thousands of people dying outside our hospitals and in the streets. 

The human psyche is like a ship on the ocean. There are calm seas and sunny days and there are days filled with driving rain and deep swells. All of us need a competent crew to help us navigate the voyage. 

How might we be a good shipmate for others? Whether being a non judgmental listening ear to assisting and advocating for those others who find themselves in any level of unsettling seas; the needs are great and present. And, are we doing our own work of being well, and when we find that waters beneath are starting to bounce around a bit are we seeking shipmates to assist us?

Everyday we see tragedies unfold in our streets and in our own lives. We are all called to health and wholeness. The path way there is through prayer and action in committing to work on our own health and supporting others to do likewise. 

“This idea—that God is mindful of the individual—is of tremendous import in dealing with fear as a disease. In this world the socially disadvantaged individual is constantly given a negative answer to the most important personal questions upon which mental health depends: “Who am I? What am I?” The first question has to do with a basic self-estimate, a profound sense of belonging, of counting. If people feel that they do not belong in the way in which it is perfectly normal for other people to belong, then they develop a deep sense of insecurity. When this happens to a person, it provides the basic material for what the psychologist calls an inferiority complex. . . . The awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego and results in a new courage, fearlessness, and power. I have seen it happen again and again.”

– Howard’s Thurman

4 thoughts on “How To Navigate The Voyage”

  1. What a scary encounter! Glad it ended well. Another mental health stigma is that all mentally ill people are violent. This can result in use of excessive force instead of compassionate care.

  2. Deacon John Stewart

    Bishop, thank you. The more we can de-stress, de-escalate, de-stigmatize and educate the more “whole” our society and our Mental Health Peers can be. May you and Staci continue to be richly blessed.

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