I hope that every time you see “What’s Happening?” it brings you smiles. You do not need to get out the pom-poms, jump all around and yell “We Are” every time. Every once and awhile is fine and would be appreciated. The exercise is good for everybody. I want to remind you, the answer is always, “We Are”! When we are experiencing a good day and when we are experiencing a bad day, “We Are”!
Just like every morning at our house, this morning the TV was tuned in to The Today Show. Did you know that the first 20 minutes of The Today Show are dedicated to the news and are commercial-free! This was one of my Dad’s many revelations after he retired. Now, it is a standard running joke in the family. During one of the Today Show’s brief news segments that run on the half hour, I overheard Ann talking about mental disorders. I ran to the TV to listen intently. I found out that a new research study is reporting that 1 in 5 U.S. teens has a serious mental disorder. Ann went on to say that less than half are seeking treatment. My reaction to this two sentence acknowledgement of the research findings was both sadness and confusion. Did anyone actually pay attention to the seriousness of the study? Was the reporting on the study just used as “filler” because they had extra time? Were the results considered mere words to be typed into the teleprompter? I am told I should be glad that the study was mentioned on TV and that it is always good when mental illness gets some “air time”.
After my morning interaction with the Today Show co-hosts, it was time to walk the dog. Zoe always makes me laugh because no matter what is going on when she hears the rustle of a plastic bag, her poop bag, she starts running in circles and whining. She knows – It’s Walk Time! We were strolling along peacefully until Zoe heard dogs barking in a neighbor’s garage. Then the walk turned in to a tug-fest. No worries. We made it back with all body parts attached! After our morning walks, it is time for me to go to the Racetrac. My world doesn’t function very well if I don’t get my “Sippie Pop” in the morning. The nickname “Sippie Pop” was lovingly given to my 44 ounce Diet Coke from the soda fountain by those who I believe are jealous of my enjoyment from the simple things in life! As I was getting in our car to go to the Racetrac, I noticed that the people on the radio were talking about Bipolar Disorder. I have to admit I thought it was very strange. I can go weeks without hearing anything about mental illness via the airwaves. This morning I not only hear about it twice but also, on two different forms of airwaves! I continued to listen to the radio program and realized that the DJs were talking about a gentleman with Bipolar Disorder who shot his TV set. The discussion went on to reveal that the gentleman saw his daughter dancing on TV. He did not approve of the way she was dancing so, he shot his television. Immediately, one of the DJs said “First, I want to know why a person with Bipolar has a gun”. I really don’t have much to say about what I heard on the radio. I’ll just say that, it provides a good example of the most common way I hear about mental illness in public.
I felt compelled to write today. I do not believe these 2 incidents were coincidences. I like that last sentence, try to say it 3 times fast. I believe there is a purpose to what happened today. For a long time, I have been of the opinion that we spend all of our time talking. We need to spend our time doing. We, as people who are living with a mental illness, need to use our voices. We need to tell our stories. We know best about mental disorders, we live them. We know best about medication, we take them. All of this became even more apparent as I reviewed some of the news releases on the research study referenced on the Today Show this morning. I wonder what the reaction of the public would have been if they heard the whole story? Underneath the headline stating 1 in 5 U.S. teens has a serious mental disorder is a “tag line”. The tag line reads “severe emotional, behavior disorders more common than physical disorders such as asthma, diabetes”. If you read a little further you will notice that the mental disorder, in which the study is referring, is severe enough to impact their daily activities. Almost 40% of the participants (10,123 adolescents, ages 13-18) with one class of disorder also met the criteria for another class of disorder, at some point in their lives. The response to the findings of the research by the National Institute of Mental Health was More Research! The researchers say more research is needed to determine the risk factors for mental disorders on adolescence, and to see whether these disorders will continue on to adulthood.
I recognize the importance of research. I realize it plays a vital role in our understanding and healing of mental illness. But….people can’t connect with research. People can’t interact with research. When people are hurting they can’t appreciate the findings of research. More Research does not relay hope, comfort, and encouragement. We need to concentrate on people like the 1 in 5 U.S. teens suffering from a serious mental disorder. We need to provide them help now. It is a tall order. I think it is our purpose. I think we are being asked to do it and I think we are being prepared to do it. This feels a bit overwhelming. It is a lot to consider. I am going to put this entry in my prayer box and revisit later. I am inviting you to think about this also. This is not a job, it is a ministry and it is not a job for one, it is a ministry for many. Let us pray for direction, strength, and good health. Now, go and do!