“I think you need to write about it. Why you need God right now,” a friend said when I was stuck working on our project. The project is to help people who are feeling suicidal. According to a recent blog post in Psychology Today, the prognosis for deaths by suicide is alarming: “According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, suicide is already the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with a 35 percent rise in the suicide rate from 1999 to 2018. But a new article recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that we may be at the beginning of something far worse.”
My name is Danei Edelen. I am president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Brown County affiliate. Personally, I have experienced two deaths by suicide in my life. When I was in my own tarpit of despair, I had a good Samaritan whose words help pull me out. We want to do the same. Yet, when it came to writing about coping skills, I felt stuck.
No one wants to have a mental illness or be called “nuts.” Everyone that walks off the psych ward says, “I guess I am one of the crazies now.” You feel abandoned.
Through NAMI, I learned I am not alone. Through the classes and the support groups, I learned that mental illnesses are diseases of the brain. Since 2015, I have written numerous online articles and given many talks about mental illness to help overcome mental illness stigma. I even spoke about my “Rubik’s cube regimen” which consisted of counting my calories, working out, and taking my medication regularly.
I believe that we are winning the war against mental illness stigma. When I have talked to college students in the past, I have found them to be incredibly open and receptive to talking about mental illness. Professional athletes and celebrities openly talk about their mental illness. However, mental illness stigma is still very rampant in the workplace. I first experienced discrimination in the workplace after asking for a legal work accommodation for my mental illness. I still cringe whenever anyone says the word crazy.
Why I need God
If I judge myself by the standards of this world, I feel like a failure. Daily, I wrestle with feelings of depression and loneliness. Recently, however, the first Beatitude really resonated with me: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
According to “The Interpreter’s Bible,” the word for “blessed” here denotes “the highest stage of happiness and well-being.” In the Greek, this word for “poor” means not only “their state of poverty” but also “they are despised, oppressed.” They are people that are totally dependent upon God for their deliverance. As a person living with a mental illness, I feel like the “poor in spirit.” I feel “despised.” The Beatitudes are God’s promises to us, “to be comforted, to inherit the earth… to be satisfied, to obtain mercy, to see God.”
As my father taught me, the Bible is a book of relationships. For Christ Jesus to be fully God and fully man, he lived through everything that I have lived through: psychosis, feelings of failure, loneliness and depression. In his word, the God of all comfort not only wants to change my perception of myself but also comfort me and to experience his joy in me.
A gift of a multicolored sunflower
A stranger online asked me to draw a sunflower for her daughter that wrestles with mental illness. This sunflower has come to represent myself and people like me. Despite what this world tells us, I believe God cherishes us because we are his creation. I believe God has given us each gifts, talents, abilities and a unique contribution to make in this world.
If you have been wrestling with loneliness, depression, or even suicidal thoughts during COVID-19, I give you this sunflower as a gift. Please know you are not alone. Through NAMI and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) there are people that want to help you get onto the road to recovery. Please reach out for help.
Danei Edelen is president for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Brown County Ohio affiliate.It can be found on Facebook at @NAMIBrownCountyOhio. During COVID-19, it meets virtually through Zoom on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. For more information call 937-378-3504 ext. 102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.