A panel discussion today with faith leaders and republican leaders got me to thinking how this group could help make a dent in this crisis. No matter what your political leaning, this is a nonpartisan issue and will take an effort from all sides.
As community leaders to whom others confide their darkest secrets, I believe faith leaders have the opportunity to tackle a key aspect of this puzzle and I’d like to discuss what I’d like to see from faith leaders.
First, I’d like to see modeling of love and compassion for those suffering from substance use disorder.
For this crisis to abate, those who suffer need to know they are loved. My son’s music clearly shows that need. They need to know they are not society throwaways like our culture treats them and faith leaders are in the position to model that behavior for a larger audience. That includes showing love to the person still using even though we know it’s far easier to love someone in recovery.
There is so much shame attached to this disease and that eats as self worth and as a result people who are suffering give up.
Speaking out on these subjects
Embrace bold topics by introducing speakers who will tell stories. You have to touch the hearts of your parishioners before they’ll invest themselves in a cause. From here, you’ll start to see opportunities to take shape, where the need is, and where you want to plug in.
By investing yourself and your place of worship, those opportunities will come to you. Do you want to be more support for criminal justice system, for children and teens, LGBTQ population or other marginalized groups? Where is that niche that is your calling?
Often people think religious leaders would judge them harshly if they found out a loved one died by suicide, for example. And I’ve heard stories from my readers here on this blog that were told by their minister that what the loved one did was a sin and they need to pray more.
Those who lose a loved one to a stigmatized illness need more support than others simply because they get so little of it. I know that first hand.
You have a child, for example, die from cancer, people don’t hesitate to pay respects. Not so with what people consider a “less noble” causes of death such as suicide or addiction. Those loved ones really suffer. Everyone that goes through a loss this devastating needs that support to start to heal.
With the influx of technology, breakdown in connection in our communities, and today’s educational focus more on standardized testing, teens in particular are often left with few real-life opportunities to learn coping skills. We don’t need more trigonometry or more testing. We need more connection. This generation is getting 45% less face time than the previous generation and that’s costing us an entire generation.
Struggling teens are masters at hiding the depression that can result in high risk behavior of all kinds. They need to hear you speak of it. They need to hear stories geared to them which shows you understand their struggles and their culture. We think keeping them in the dark protects them. But they are faced daily with some serious issues and they are not being asked how they are coping.
I remember getting a note from a mother who told me that after I told my story, she was annoyed since she had no warning what I would speak about. She said she went to the car fuming. “Why would she thrust suicide and addiction to heroin on us without no warning.” She was sorry she brought her teenager.
As soon as she got in the car, her son started talking and ultimately told his mother he might suffer from depression and he had thought about killing himself several times and didn’t know what to do. He had not worked up the nerve, like most teens, to tell his mother. Like my son.
But since she took him to the event, he opened up. He was desperate to tell someone. So when she sent me the message she was in an entirely different frame of mind and that is one of being thankful her son talked to her and not being angry with me although I can live with that. She also told me it was the longest conversation she had had with her son in over a year.
Faith is often, but not always, a driver in people finding a new purpose in life and maintaining recovery from mental illness and/or addiction. But no matter whether they embrace your message of faith or not, treating people with respect and understanding goes much further than trying to push them into faith.
Opening up conversation is what ushers in change and overcomes resistance so there are more resources. And connection and love are probably the most important component to healing our culture.
Who better to lead that change than our faith leaders and houses of worship?
- Richmond, VA and national resources for those suffering mental illness
- Richmond, VA and national resources for those suffering addiction
- Resources for those suffering a loss from suicide or addiction
- Local and Virginia crisis lines and resources -printable pdf on the page
- Family support groups
- Resources listed on Beacon Tree
- Organization about Human Trafficking
- Justice organization on human trafficking
- Program and rehabilitation
- ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences (Childhood Trauma) Take the ACEs test.
- 7 Reasons I think we we are seeing more depression and anxiety