Community and Mental Illness | Steve Pitman

There is no place you can go, there’s certainly
no congregation, there’s no parish, and not find 26.5% of the people with a diagnosable
mental illness. It is absolutely everywhere. The only thing that distinguishes one congregation
from another is that some churches talk about it and some don’t. That’s the only distinction.
As a practical matter, you know people who are mentally ill. You just don’t know who
they are because they look just like all of the rest of us. Instead we have this vision
of what a mentally ill person looks like and it’s just totally off the mark. In the minds
of most people a mentally ill person looks like a psychopathic killer or looks like somebody
sitting in the corner drooling and staring vacant-eyed. It’s just not so.
I have a short story. Right after Sandy Hook we got interviewed, we got contacted, NAMI
Orange county got contacted because there was a television show that wanted to do a
series on disability. They wanted to do one segment on mental illness, which we thought
was terrific. They wanted us to introduce them to 10 couples where husband and wife,
one of them had a mental illness, but yet their marriages were thriving notwithstanding
the mental illness. Every one of the couples was turned down so
I called the production company and I said, “What’s wrong? I understand if somebody can’t
tell a good story and I understand if their affect is too flat for television, but none
of the 10?” The production assistant said, “They all looked too normal.”
Which is exactly what the problem is. Everyone with mental illness looks pretty normal, but
some of them talk about it and some of them don’t. As we talk about it, we bring this
illness out into the light so people can get better, so families can be supportive. It’s
absolutely essential.

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