Fear of People with Mental Illness Fades When We Know How to Help

Trends in the public marketplace of ideas:

  • There are more houseless people around us
  • Many churches, congregations, and volunteers of all sorts are trying to help
  • Some local governments are trying to restrict these efforts
  • Claims are made in support of these restrictions that people with mental illness are dangerous
The following post is a repeat from a few years ago. It seems time to repeat it. It does not address the mistaken notion about mental illness and violence, nor the scapegoating of people who are in need. It does address the issue of fear. I hope to provide resources for people who are exercising their constitutionally protected right to the free practice of their religion.

Mental Illness First Aid

We know how to do this. A car hits a light pole -- somebody, maybe you will call 911. Somebody is choking in a restaurant -- somebody else, maybe will leap up to do the Heimlich Maneuver.

It doesn't have to be an emergency. If a friend has a persistent cough, or mentions a bruise that won't go away, or complains about chest pains, we urge them to see a doctor. We have learned to recognize signs of cancer, heart disease, stroke. We get involved, we even get on their case when the people we care about need help.

Most of the time we do. Sometimes we turn away. Last week I kept having the same two 
conversations over and over. The first was about a man who dangled by a chain from the end of a crane. He reached out to catch a woman caught in the boil of a dam, to rescue her from drowning. The second was with friends who just didn't know what to do -- about a cousin who is irrational, a daughter who doesn't get out of bed, a godson who can't keep a job, each of them diagnosable with a serious mental illness, none of them getting treatment.

What To Do When A Friend Has A Mental Illness

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