Thoughts About Wellness – Bridges to Care
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
Source: https://bible.knowing jesus.com/themes/Ecclesiastes/4/9#thematic_title_9278
Covenant Presbyterian is partnering with National Alliance on Mentally Illness (NAMI) in a program called Bridges to Care-San Antonio (BTCSA) that has as its goal developing a cadre of religious communities that are welcoming and accepting of people who are working toward mental health. BTCSA encourages volunteers to partner with people who are struggling emotionally, behaviorally and/or cognitively in their efforts to move toward and maintain Mental and Behavioral Health. It focuses on people supporting each other as equals. It is consistent with the PCUSA’s Mental Health Network which states:
“Our mission is to educate and equip the church to walk compassionately alongside people living with mental health issues, recognize neurodiversity, and encourage mental well-being.”
Rather than focusing on what is wrong with a person, BTCSA choses to focus on the path to wellness and how people can partner together in that journey. BTCSA strives to “focus people on language of wellness, health and resilience.”
To that end, it is worth taking a bit to reflect on “What is mental and behavioral wellness?”
The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as: “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
It seems obvious, but nevertheless needs to be said, that all of us are on different paths to mental and behavioral wellness and we are at different places along the path. As you read through the following indicators of wellness, think about where you are on each dimension and where others you may know who are not at the same place think, feel and behave. One way we share our humanity and make connections with those who are struggling to obtain and maintain mental wellness is to recognize that we too need the following to be well:
Realize abilities-realizing one’s abilities involves a person’s self-awareness. It requires an honest appraisal of strengths and weaknesses. It focuses on the strengths a person brings to his or her life, either innate or learned. It recognizes that everybody has knowledge, skills and abilities they bring to bear on their life, their relationships and their work and it affirms that most people are doing the best they can, given their unique needs, background and skills. It values and affirms the person’s unique efforts and their abilities to gain health rather than focusing on their shortcomings. People need to recognize their strengths and sometimes they need others to point them out.
Coping with the normal stresses of life-it includes resiliency and coping-The Cleveland Clinic says, “Coping skills help you tolerate, minimize, and deal with stressful situations in life. Managing your stress well can help you feel better physically and psychologically and it can impact your ability to perform your best.”
Coping skills are those thoughts, feelings and actions that allow people to function well or at least adequately in life. They include the ability to recognize and analyze a problem and find a solution to it. They involve planning, anticipation of problems and the ability to evaluate the consequences of our actions. They include the ability to recognize and manage emotions and stress. Not everybody has good coping skills. None of us have the knowledge, skills and abilities we need to deal with all the stresses in our lives. We certainly were not born with the requisite skills. We have to be educated and learn them or learn to consult with others who may have the skills and can be trusted to use them in the person’s best interests. Our community and relationships are good sources if we have ones that are accepting of us and trustworthy. Coping requires:
- Maintaining positive relationships– positive relationships involve ones that are accepting, encouraging, understanding, trustworthy and patient. Good relationships involve both quality and quantity of time. It requires that we take the time to build trust and to show understanding. And, it requires that we engage people and allow others to engage us at a deeper level than every day chatter. Often, folks who are struggling with finding wellness have a history of being wounded by “significant others” in the past. Trust is difficult for them. So, it takes time to demonstrate our ability to be trustworthy.
- Having a good support system– a support system is one that a person can go to when they need expertise outside of their knowledge, skills or abilities—a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support. Support may be financial, temporal, emotional or knowledgeable. We can contribute our money, our time, our understanding and our knowledge of resources outside the church as we walk with others or when they walk with us. BTCSA has a place for everybody in the effort to develop community. Not everybody can befriend people on their way to health. Being supportive does not mean being a therapist. It means being a friend. AND, friendship comes in many forms. We will need to people who want to be companions to those struggling and we will need people to support the effort with administrative and financial support.
- Having a good self-image– Christianity is particularly and uniquely prepared to help others and ourselves in the area of self-image. We are broken and forgiven people; redeemed by Jesus and supported by the risen Christ. Bringing others who are working on mental wellness into our community and walking with them as they grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually will help them and us develop a positive self-image; an image of a person valuable enough to God that he sent his son to redeem them and us.
- Having a positive attitude– a positive attitude is not one that denies the hardships in life. It is one that helps us deal with those hardships. It involves what Psychologist Martin Seligman calls learned optimism. That is optimism is recognizing that trouble is: time limited; doesn’t ruin all of life; and rarely is all the person’s sole responsibility.
Productive/fruitful work – In our society, a value is put on “doing” rather than “being.” Consequently, people tend to be judged on the basis of what they have achieved in life. Self-worth often has to do with work and the value of work. People struggling with achieving Mental and Behavioral health often have trouble getting or maintaining employment. So, they often do not feel worth much because they do not “do” much.
Perhaps a slightly different perspective might benefit us and others in our pilgrimage toward mental and behavioral mental wellness. What if our “job” is to love and to be loved by others? What if our worth were defined as our ability to care for others and to allow others to care for us? How would that change our foundation for work? Starting with a sense of worth, we might feel free to engage in any work that cares for others. The economy would be different than the one defined in terms of dollars and cents. It would help us deal with those of us who are in a different socio-economic status because we would not evaluate or judge them.
Contribution to community – being a good support system is just as important as having a good support system. Contributing to community means being involved in goals that are bigger than ourselves. It requires what Mental
Wellness practitioners call self-transcendence. It results in:
- A shift in focus from the self to others –consideration of the needs of others.
- A shift in values –reward for an activity is the activity itself.
- An increase in moral concern –a more intensive focus on doing what is right.
- Emotions of elation – self-transcendence can trigger awe, ecstasy, amazement, feeling uplifted, feeling elevated, etc. (Wong, 2017).
The Take Aways:
- We are walking the same path as people who are struggling to find Mental and Behavioral wellness.
- We can provide a community which honors the process as much as the outcome- we are all a work in progress.
- Our community provides a diversity of knowledge, skills and abilities that are helpful in building a Behavioral Health Friendly Congregation Support comes in many forms: we can contribute time, finances, friendship.
- What is it you can contribute?
- Getting out of ourselves is essential to our wellness.
- Want to know more? Want to get involved?