Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
“… but pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up” This is more than a literal scenario of helping a friend who has fallen. The ways in which any of us can stumble or fall are innumerable. We know that life’s ups and downs and twists and turns can easily disrupt the inertia that is keeping us on track and send us careening into a dark place. Having friends or a support group of any kind may make the difference between getting back on track or spiraling into a dark place.
May is Mental Health Month, a time for working to reduce the stigma of mental illness and for spreading information about how to find help. This month we will also make note of the role of support groups as a resource for helping deal with life’s struggles such as mental illness, substance abuse, codependency, and family violence including child abuse and domestic violence. What help is available? What does it look like to help too much?
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) sponsors many types of support groups and classes. Pre-Covid, these groups met in locations throughout San Antonio. Currently many groups are online. The groups share a common member component, such as family-to-family or peer-to-peer. Support groups offer the benefit of speaking with others who have shared life experiences and have insight and encouragement to offer. Contact NAMI-San Antonio at 210-734-3349.
Support groups are a vital part of follow-up care after someone completes a substance abuse rehabilitation program. Narcotics Anonymous (210-434-0665) and Alcoholics Anonymous (210-821-6325) have numerous meeting sites and times, both virtual and in person. These groups offer a sponsor to walk with members beginning their sobriety and offer life-long support in a non-judgmental setting.
A complication in the family and relationships of a mentally ill or substance-abusing person is a condition known as codependency. Codependency exists when a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is, or becomes, affected with a pathological dependence on meeting the needs of another person. The codependent person may see their actions as helpful or may even be afraid to not act. This relationship is unhealthy for the codependent, who often ignores their own needs, and may delay treatment for the mentally ill person or addict. Group therapy exists for codependency and support groups are also important. To locate a group, contact CoDependents Anonymous at 888-444-2359 or go to their website https://coda.org/find-a-meeting/.
Many of life’s tragic stories have their roots in mental illness, unrecognized, unacknowledged, untreated or self-treated by a substance that makes life worse for the user or someone else. Domestic violence and child abuse can be part of the chaos when mental health problems or substance abuse exist in a home. Domestic abuse victims should call 911 in emergencies. They can also call 211 (United Way) or the Battered Women’s Shelter (210-733-8810) for help and referrals. These and other resources can offer help with an exit plan.
Anyone with knowledge of child abuse should call 911 in an emergency. Urgent cases should be reported to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services at 800-252-5400. Use online reporting at https://www.txabusehotline.org/ if you believe the situation can wait 2-3 days. There are many agencies which offer help for children who are removed from their homes. These agencies are always in need of donations and some have opportunities for volunteers. We will hear from one of these agencies, SJRC Texas (formerly known as St. Jude’s Ranch for Children), on May 30 when their representative comes to Covenant to speak at the invitation of the Missions Committee.
Some people are fortunate to have friends or family who will help connect them with resources and stand by them no matter what. Sadly, many of us do not have anyone to assist on what is likely to be the most difficult journey of their lives. Support from those who have walked your path may make the difference between success and continuing to struggle. One way we can all help is to encourage, call, drive, or whatever is needed to connect a friend or family member with a group to help them. If the first try doesn’t click, keep trying.