Wow! Can you believe this ride has come to an end? For the last week, it felt like we would never get to St. Augustine. Even this morning, I was thinking – “Man, we still have 32 miles.” But, we finally arrived and all our family and friends were gathered.
I would like to thank my fellow Road Warriors – Allen, Lynn, Ed, Casey, Rich Ryan, Bill, Brenda, Matt and Penny. The ride would not have been the same without our wonderful support from Big Mike, Michele, Peter, Lynn and Bill.
Also, I want to thank all of you for reading our blogs and cheering us on.
Although we have finished our journey, may the Awareness continue!
I asked Pastor Brad, my minister and friend, to write his experience with mental illness. I would like to close my blog with his thoughts:
“I never understood mental illness until I found myself at the Regional Treatment Center In Fergus Falls, Minnesota, during the summer of 1990. I was a seminary student, embarking on an educational experience called C.P.E. (Clinical Pastoral Education). Basically, I was a student chaplain for the summer at one of Minnesota’s State Psychiatric Hospitals. And what an experience it was. I ministered in a locked unit of 18-40 year olds dealing with intense mental health concerns. After leading worship, visiting, conducting bible studies, and learning greatly from the psychiatric nurses, counselors and doctors, my pastoring would never be the same again. In the midst of trying numerous medications (to see what would work) and behavior modification, I experienced first hand the struggle and sometimes the hopelessness of trying to keep the clients stable and healthy. But this was just the beginning of my mental health journey.
My C.P.E supervisor told me that no one would ever admit this, but there would be a small percentage of my church members who would be struggling with mental health issues. Small? How about more than expected? Whether its anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or paranoia or delusional thinking, I am constantly working with individuals and supporting frustrated, ashamed and desperate families who endure the mental health cycle each day. Yes, I have learned the litany of medications such as lithium, wellbutrin, paxil, clonopin, saraquill and many others. Yes, I have learned that when people feel good, they may not see the need to take their meds, as the downward spiral begins. Yes, I have learned that emergency mental health services can be effective, but community based mental health care can sometimes be sketchy and wait times long to be seen and evaluated especially for the poor and indigent. And yes, I have learned to intervene and calm down mental health meltdowns. I am extremely grateful to be a part of a congregation that takes mental health care seriously through welcome, counseling and support groups. In the prayers of the church we are always praying for individuals and families who daily walk the “mental health tightrope.”
But the stigma still continues. Many in our communities still do not understand those with “diseases of the mind” and that they need care and concern. I pray for the day that there is more understanding. I pray for the day that our country will clammer for a comprehensive mental health policy. I pray for the day that many will receive training on how to help those who are hurting and tormented. I pray for the day that people with mental health concerns will not be ostracized/judged, but welcomed into all aspects of community living.
I am only a simple parish pastor, but I have learned a lot about the mental health journey. Thank so much to Brenda, and all the other riders who have so unselfishly given their time to place mental health care to the forefront with their “Ride Across America.”