Wellness Wednesday: 1 in 10 Adults Struggle to Cope. Do You Know How to Help? By Nancy Virden

African American man in the moonlight. World Mental Health Day Concept.

I cannot be the only one who talks to inanimate objects. Neither demanding from nor cajoling these apparently moody items has ever had an effect. Demanding that a living human who is struggling with a mood disorder snap out of it is like bargaining with a computer that just froze; it simply does not help. An interesting question to ask ourselves might be, am I concerned for this person, or trying to control her mood for my comfort?

Jared is a young police officer suffering from severe depression. He is suicidal and does not consider himself worthy of being a dad to his little boy. Naturally, his boss took Jared’s gun. A sense of worthlessness is often overwhelming during episodes of depression. Jared’s wife, Viv, in a misguided attempt at returning her household to normality, scolds him and tells him he is failing his family.

While it is reasonable to wish life were easier or to want what we believe is best for a loved one, Viv unknowingly crosses the line from concern into an attempt at controlling Jared’s mood disorder. She needs her child’s father fully present and involved. Her life has become harder due to his illness, so she presses more to ease her discomfort than to offer what Jared needs in his healing process.

In the online health library of the Cleveland Clinic, the medically reviewed report (August 4, 2022), Mood disorders: what they are, symptoms & treatment (clevelandclinic.org), classifies depression and bipolar disorder with their subsets as the main causes of mood extremes. An average 7% of U.S. adults are diagnosed with depression and 2.8% with bipolar disorder each year. That makes approximately 1 in 10 adults who are likely struggling to cope.

According to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (samhsa.gov 2022-nsduh-nnr.pdf; pgs.39-60), of American adults in 2022 specifically, 15 million suffered a major depressive episode with severe impairment. Like Jared, these people could not work or had low productivity on their jobs and at home due to loss of energy, focus, and motivation. This type of disruption is why mood disorders are one of the top ten disabilities worldwide. With a full quarter of workers contending with any mental disorder in any given year, employers are learning to integrate mental health policies. Potentially millions of American households too must navigate this slick and scary trail of support and recovery.

Pressure, such as the kind from Viv, is a primary reason that only about half of those with any mental health issue receive formal care. No one can change another person, and most of us do not like it when someone tries to change us. If concern becomes a grab at control, the one with the mental health challenge may withdraw, fearful of criticism, a blast of to-dos, or simply not being heard.

What are Viv’s alternatives? First, she needs someone with insight to help her see the bigger picture. People with lived experience are everywhere – online, in mental health advocacy organizations, and in the church. Secondly, instead of reacting in fear, she can lean on her support system. Thirdly, Viv can gain ideas about what to say by reading suggestions from knowledgeable sources such as The National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI.org.).

Massachusetts author and family therapist Terry Real, is quoted by Editor at Large of Psychology Today, Hara Marano, in her November 2023 article, “How to Ask for (and Get) What You Need in a Relationship.” On offering healthy support, Real says, “First, start with empathy and compassion, then ask if they want problem-solving. Turning an upsetting incident into a teachable moment is generally a bad idea.”

Luke 10:25-37 records Jesus’ story of a man who was beaten and left for dead by robbers. Another man passed by who was of a ethnicity and culture thought hostile to that of the robbery victim. Instead of behaving hatefully, he took care of the injured man’s basic needs and placed him in a facility where he could be safe while he healed.

Without treatment, mood disorders tend to become more frequent and extreme. A valuable lesson to remember is that people are not to be handled, they are to be accepted. Concern does not reprimand or manipulate. It listens and offers insightful service, encourages professional care when needed, and waits for healing to take place. Following Jesus’ lived example, concern is loving, patient, and kind.






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