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2017 World Mental Health Day: Avril Sargeant

I have been in the mental health and social service field for over 22 years. Throughout this time, I have seen mental illness plague my community, family and friends.

Just this past Easter a Clevelander erratically murdered an elderly man on the street then took his own life. As a young girl, I witness my uncle having “episodes” and not understanding why he would be one way, one day and another way, the next. I even had to seek a psychiatric evaluation for my son were we learned he had separation anxiety and would need counseling. Through my own studies and experiences, I truly understand the importance of maintaining your mental wellness.

First, we must understand what mental health is. According to Merriam-Webster, mental health is “the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustments especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life; also : the general condition of one’s mental and emotional state.” Basically, it is stating that one is mentally healthy when they have joy about themselves, can positively interact with others, and fulfill their day-to-day duties successfully.

Secondly, we must acknowledge the mental health issues that surround us. My family never talked about my uncle with me and it was not until I studied psychology I understood he had PTSD. Moreover, when seeking mental health service for my own son, I was critiqued by many family and friends. Just like any other illness, mental illness can be difficult to bare but we most talk about it and deal with it. Personally, I participate in various support groups which has created a new community for me. I have been able to learn from others who have overcome my current challenges. On the other side, if someone seeks help from you take them seriously. Often times we are not able to handle the burdens of others but there are many resources that support mental health.

We also must acknowledge the negative experiences that we may have buried. It can be easy not to deal with our interpersonal issues, family drama, generational curses, or even strong holds. These unmet feelings can turn into rage, anxiety, bitterness, control issues, or depression. There are times we do not fully understand why we are emotionally eating or in unhealthy relationships. However, these feelings and actions come from emotions that we have ignored for years. Seeking help for your mental wellness takes bold faith and I encourage you to take that step!

Lastly, understand that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. God has given you a temple (your body) that he expects you to take care of. There are just as many resources about mental health as there are for physical health. This past Sunday my Pastor, Kevin James, preached a wonderful sermon on overcoming emotionally issues by evaluating our social life and thoughts. I strongly suggest you to watch it here. Additionally, some of my favorite books are Habit of the Mind – Ten Exercises to Renew Your Thinking, Wounded Heart, and Changes That Heal.

I want to leave you all with a scripture, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It says, “Don’t you know you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred and you together are that temple.” This passage encourages us to maintain the body and soul that God gives us, so that we can honor him. So as Christians we must be diligent in taking care of ourselves and supporting others on their wellness journey .

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