Put Less Stress, More Joy into the Season

The holidays should be a time of love and joy. Unfortunately for many folks, it’s a time of loneliness and anxiety. Today I want to explore ways to help those who are suffering from more than seasonal depression.

Disclaimer: This blog is my opinion, and the topic covered today is one that’s very personal as someone dear to me committed suicide. I chose to write about this topic because I’m raising the mental health issue with my local Farm Bureau Board and want this subject to be thoroughly vetted.

Mental healthcare is not largely understood, and there are tough questions that must be explored:

  • How it is funded?
  • How are services implemented?
  • Are the services accessed by the people who need it most?
  • How does someone even know if he or she needs services?
  • Will he or she admit help is needed?

While researching mental health service in North Central Iowa, I came across the Mental Health Center of North Iowa Inc. There is a lot of information available on the MHCONI website, and I read with interest a list of topics available in the center’s user-friendly library of audio tapes, video tapes, and pamphlets. I expected to find information on conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, stress, anxiety and depression. But one topic really took me by surprise…. parenting skills! Parenting must be the guiding light in any person’s mental health, but is this the right place for parenting skills to be taught?

Back to the money part… How is mental health financed? The Mental Health Center of North Iowa has had a history of deficit budgets. In the past, the counties served were responsible to cover costs. It’s difficult to determine from this website how funding is currently supplied, and the most recent strategic plan posted is for the years 2007 to 2012. (Side bar: I’m disappointed with the age of the information. This morning I received a call from the IT administrator for MHCONI, and he told me the current map showing that Franklin County is served by MHCONI is not current. This organization is restructuring and will soon launch a new website. Guess this means I have more research to do!)

I believe mental health is a local issue, just as gun control is. The person controlling the weapon – whether it’s a knife, a car or a hammer – is the problem. A very popular football coach was killed five years ago in Parkersburg, which is only 30 miles from my house. Coach Ed Thomas died because a former student, who suffered from mental illness, wasn’t getting the help he needed even though the young man’s parents had tried desperately to help him.

There is need to end the stigma around mental illness, as Arianna Huffington wrote in an August 18 article published by the Huffington Post after actor/comedian Robin Williams took his own life. Check out these statistics cited in her article:

  • In 2011 (the last year for which we have the data) there were 39,518 suicides, making it the 10th leading cause of death.
  • An estimated 1 million people attempt suicide each year, which, beyond the obvious tragic human toll, is estimated to cost the U.S. economy $34 billion each year.
  • Since World War II worldwide rates of suicide have gone up by an estimated 60 percent.

Perhaps mental health issues will appear in the spotlight again this season as the third “The Night at the Museum” movie, in which Robin Williams stars as Teddy Roosevelt, opens in theatres this weekend. Our nation’s mental health services systems needs to be updated, as much as the MHCONI website does! It appears that most organizations, in most states, are struggling to figure out how to meet today’s needs.

I truly believe that returning to our religious values and letting God opening guide us – without worrying about all the “politically correct” overtones – is key to restoring balance and health in this country. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying because I do not mean to downplay some of the very serious mental problems. From the beginning of time, there have been mental problems. We shouldn’t avoid the very deep dark mystery of mental health! It will continue to destroy lives and families, so we should work together to develop viable solutions.

Let us enjoy this time of Christmas and remember why we are celebrating the birth of Jesus! Reduce your stress and celebrate with joy!