Love One Another As I Have First Loved You

I recently became made aware of a man in Texas who is being set to be executed. I don’t know a lot of the particulars of the story, but what I do know is that Mr. Panetti was diagnosed in 1978 with schizoprenia. He has lived for more than 30 years with a mental illness!

In 2004, Mr. Panetti was set to be executed but a federal judge court stayed the execution. Later, in a follow-up trial, Mr. Panetti was allowed to represent himself. He came into the courtroom wearing a purple cowboy suit and with a cowboy Bible. He called the likes of Jesus Christ and JKF as witnesses in his trial.

As I picture Mr. Panetti standing in that courtroom, I cannot help but realize that he is a very sick man….and needs proper medication, care, etc. I don’t know what caused him to experience a psychotic break but he clearly seems to have experienced one as he murdered his in-laws. I find myself pondering the question, “How sick is he now or was he then?”

Morally, I wonder what is the right solution to this situation. Yes, Mr. Panetti committed a crime, but does he deserve to be executed for his actions? I know not everyone will agree with me, but I don’t think that execution is the best answer for Mr. Panetti. Mr. Panetti is a human being just like the rest of us. And because of his illness, he made some horrific choices. Yet does that mean he deserves to die by the hand of execution?

I hope and pray that Mr. Panetti and all those that suffer from mental illnesses will find the proper help that they need. And that they will be shown compassion and not fear by the world around them. I think that is one of our biggest faults when it comes to caring for the mentally ill. We fear for ourselves and our families, yet showing even a little or a lot of compassion can go a very long way. God calls us to “love one another as I have first loved you.”

To read more about Scott Panetti’s story, here are a few links to read
Is Scott Panetti?
Scott Panetti Execution
A Schizoprenic Man

Educating about Mental Illness

As I have blogged during this #write31days, the reality of how many individuals and their family/friends have been affected by mental illness has been confirmed. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2012, an estimated 43.7 million American adults were affected by a mental health illness. And there are more cases reported daily. So again my plea is for us to continue to educate about mental health issues.

I am not a health care professional but I appreciate and am thankful for many organizations and people who are helping to educate about mental illnesses. Today I thought I would share a couple of organizations that are doing just that. Actress Glenn Close and her sister (who lives with a mental illness) started the organization Bring Change 2 Mind. Their mission is “to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness through widely distributed Public Education Materials based on the latest scientific insights and measured for effectiveness. To act as a portal to a broad coalition of organizations that provide service, screening, information, support and treatment of mental illness.” You can find more information here BringChange2Mind.
I also appreciate all that the National Alliance on Mental Illness does to educate about mental health issues. NAMI works to offer hope and healing because those living with mental illnesses need a community that supports them, their families and their recovery. NAMI works every day to save every life. You can find more information here National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Earlier I also wrote a post about Media and Mental Illness that talked about the book and movie Silver Linings Playbook. If you haven’t already checked out the book or movie, I would definitely recommend that you do. I also came across this book Blessed Are the Crazy by Sara Griffith Lund. I have not read this book myself but I hope to check it out soon. I was incredibly surprised by the number of books dealing with mental illnesses when I typed “mental illness” into the search engine of GoodReads. 
Are there any books, movies, resources that you would recommend for those who daily live with mental illness and their family/friends?

Hope and Resurrection (Remembering All Who Struggle…)

Mrs. Doubtfire, August Rush (I forgot about this one until turning the channel the other day and seeing him in this movie), Patch Adams, Goodwill Hunting and so many more–all starring the one and only Robin Williams. He’s also been the voice of some of my fave animated characters as well. He has always had this profound way of sharing so much joy and laughter.

Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my fave movies! I could watch it over and over. Perhaps because it came out about the time my parents got divorced and in some ways helped me get through that time.

Reading the news of Mr. Williams death this afternoon is so very difficult. Yet also is a stark reminder of how very difficult it is to live with addiction or mental health issues. It saddens me that so many celebrities have fallen into the deepest darkness, yet we often don’t see it! But the reality is that there is help out there. In fact, help is readily accessible.

I realize it is often hard for those who struggle with addiction etc to get help. Yet help is truly the hope in the midst of their darkness. Too often we see these individuals “in the shadows of our steeples” (This was a book I found in seminary but it captures the situation so well) and are afraid to help them. Yet I an reminded of the words we heard in yesterday’s Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary, “Do not be afraid!”

As many of you, my faithful readers, know I am the daughter of a woman who daily struggles with mental health issues. I have seen the ways she has suffered because of the stigma associated with the illness. But more than anything she is one of the most faith filled women that I know! She exudes joy in so many ways!

My mom has reminded me and continually reminds me that there is hope! Hope does come out of the pain and sadness. Light can and does emerge from the darkness! God walks with us when we are afraid! (Remember the “Footprints in the Sand”)

Together we can cling to the promise of God’s words when he says “Do not be afraid!” It is important for us to walk with and offer hope to those who are emerged in the darkness of addiction etc. So often we fear what the world has shown us yet the worlds view is not the reality of life. Many daily live with addiction and mental health issues because they have received the proper care.

So let us not be the first to jump to conclusions of what we have seen. Rather let us share our stories of hope and resurrection. Let us cling to Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid!”

I Am A Daughter (Part Three)

My heart aches! The news headlines are reporting yet another school shooting. This time in the Portland, Oregon area. When will this stop? Why can’t we seem to get a hold of this? There are just too many school shootings happening in the United States. We need to do something about this. From what I have read so far today in the news, we do not know the name of this killer but we do know the name of the young man who walked into the school in Connecticut last December. His name was Adam Lanza.

As the news of the school shootings surfaced in December of 2012, mental health was a key issue that kept resurfacing. And if you read my blog post that December, you know that I truly believe this is a place for us to start. We are more comfortable talking about guns and gun control than we are talking about mental health issues. I am a daughter of someone who daily lives with and struggles with mental illness. She is one of the most grace-filled and faith-filled women that I know. Yet I know that mental illness has not been easy for her or for our family. In fact, It took me a really, really long time to share about the illness because I saw how others treated her because of the stigma associated with the illness.

The reality is that there is help out there. With the right medications and care, normal lives can be lived. I think we need to do a much better job of educating about mental health issues. I believe that if we educate more fully, perhaps the number of school shootings will be minimized. I can’t say that for sure but what I do know is we need to start somewhere…and mental health seems like a good place to start.

I would be a totally different individual if I hadn’t experienced what I have experienced with my family members who daily struggle with mental illness. And the truth is that I love them both and they have taught me so much about life and living even when I know that has been easier said than done for them. Yes, our journeys with mental illness have not been easy. In fact, there have been times when I have wanted to curse God (and probably did) for them! Why us? Why our family? Yet I wouldn’t give up this journey for anything! Through it all I have learned what it means in Psalm 30 “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

And with that said, I also think it is important for us to pray and lift these up to God so let us pray:

“God, we don’t understand what happened in Oregon this morning. We ask you to be with the family of the student who was killed. We also ask you to be with the shooter. We don’t know why he did what he did but we know that he needs to feel your love and forgiveness. Comfort all those who are filled with fear now at sending their children to school. Guide us as we educate and bring awareness to mental health in our world. God, most of all we ask you to bring your peace into the world. Amen!

(You can read part one; and part two here;