Tag Archives: Support

Irma Janzen: Supporting People Who Live With Mental Illnesses

Mental Health Initiative 2018

by Irma Janzen

People who live with a mental illness have been my teachers! I have learned a lot about life from what they model and what they say. Almost everything I have learned about how best to support them I have learned from them, and that is what I pass along to you.

However, before we begin with those kinds of tips, let’s think a little bit about love and how that includes treating all people with dignity, respect and sensitivity. As Christians this is our starting place and let’s let 1 Corinthians 13 be our guide.

I know that it is not always easy to treat people with dignity and respect, and this may be even more difficult when a person’s thinking is distorted, delusional, or hallucinated because of an illness. The person may simply not be able to think rationally or logically, and if we have not experienced this ourselves it is hard to understand what that person is going through.

A Willingness to Learn is Essential

First, be willing to learn about mental illnesses. Local mental health services, medical clinics and self-help groups have lots of resources. Articles, podcasts and many other resources are available on the internet. Here are some good places to start:

www.mbwpg.cmha.ca/document-category/understanding-mental-illness,

www.ourdailybread.org/conversations/grace-for-troubled-minds-christian-perspectives-on-mental-health

www.edenhealthcare.ca/spiritual-care/resource

Second, learn to listen and be willing to learn from the person with the illness. Listen attentively and non-judgementally. I do not know how the other person is feeling and I may not understand. I need to be the learner. I also need to listen to what may be under the words. I need to listen to the tone and observe. I need to be okay to sit silently, to see the tears or to hear a tirade of anger. I need to be ready to listen for a while. It may not be enough to give only half an hour while watching the clock.

Be Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak

Be slow to speak. I must not think I have the answers or that a quick, short, simplistic solution will be helpful. If and when I ask questions they need to reflect back to the person what he or she has said. Or I could ask open-ended questions to encourage them to say more. Comments like, “Tell me a little more about what you just said,” or “You said you were really feeling down” are examples of questions that can encourage further talking.

There may come a time when I encourage someone to find more resources or to try something but that needs to wait until I have really heard and listened. Be careful of the attitude of “You can fix this if you just do this or that.”

There are times when it may be appropriate to divert the direction of the conversation. Continuing to listen to stories and incidents that repeat consistently may not be helpful. Some people can get very emotionally engrossed in talking about what they experience as reality through delusions or hallucinations. Changing the topic to another emotional topic may break the pattern and turn it in another direction.

Tips on Being a Good Friend

One thing I still sometimes forget is that when we meet casually I need to say, “It’s good to see you” rather then saying, “How are you?”

Many people who live with serious mental illnesses have already been disappointed with people who seem to be really good friends for a while and then disappear. They don’t need more of that. However, you may need to pace yourself carefully so as not to over expend and then drop someone when you are exhausted. Agreeing on a next time to meet and putting it into our calendars is often good. In that way we don’t forget, but it’s also a way of setting healthy boundaries.

It is often helpful to gather a small circle of people who will all be part of the person’s life. No one person can meet all my needs, so I should not try to be the person who can meet all the needs of someone else.

Being remembered is important. A quick text to say, “I love you,” or a note saying, “I was thinking of you today,” or (if appropriate), “I am praying for you,” are quick ways of letting the person know that he or she is not forgotten.

Some people would enjoy a party for their birthday or being invited to a Christmas party. Some might prefer a one-on-one visit. It’s easy enough to ask what they prefer.

There are times to take a meal, do the laundry, offer childcare or go to an appointment.

It is also good to invite people to contribute with their gifts. I remember a woman who hand-drew beautiful bulletin covers. I know that was in the pre-computer days, but maybe some people would enjoy hand-drawn bulletin covers in 2018 too. That’s just one idea to start you thinking creatively.

Spiritual Support

This is very important for Christians. When God seems far away, as sometimes happens when a person has a serious mental illness, some people want us to be praying with them. Others don’t. Some want a comforting Bible verse; some don’t. Let’s never assume that because a person does not want prayer at a certain time that they are not in a solid relationship with God. Maybe their faith is even stronger and more meaningful then mine. Maybe they are tired of platitudes when their prayers are cries and laments. It is appropriate to ask, “Would you appreciate a prayer or a Psalm or would you just prefer to sit in silence or to chat?”

The same caution applies to touch. Do we hug or shake hands? Ask. See what the person wants and go with that. People who have been hurt by touch may pull back if you seek to touch. Others are hungry for physical touch because they hardly ever experience it.

If we seek to be supportive and the person does not seem warm to our friendship or does not reply to a message, let’s not take that too personally. If we have made a mistake or done something unkind we need to apologize, but it may not have been a good day or there was a reason they couldn’t reply. Try again later.

As with any relationships supporting and learning from people who live with a mental illness takes love, time and sensitivity. I already referred to 1 Cor. 13. A metaphor that may be helpful is the one about the body in 1 Cor. 12 where we have the idea of the faith community being one body and all of us significant members of that body. If some part of our body suffers we all suffer. If the whole body functions well and together we have a strong and healthy body.

Irma
Irma Janzen

While this article speaks specifically about supporting people with mental illness, we all need support, sometimes more, sometimes less. Let’s accept the gifts that people with mental illness bring to our community so that indeed we are one body and that people around us recognize us by our love for each other.

Irma Janzen, MEd, MA, has served in education, as the coordinator of MCC Canada’s Mental Health and Disabilities Program, and as a pastor. She is part of Fort Garry EMC.

NFC: Kids Club Has Grown This Past Year

by Janice Imrie

CREIGHTON, Sask.—We are so thankful for Pastor Randall and Faith Krahn. The combination of insightful sermons and musical gifts that they share with us is very much appreciated by all.

Lorne and Margaret Moorhead continue to be pillars in our church. Margaret has been dealing with some health issues and we ask that you keep both Lorne and Margaret in your prayers. Marg Cone, another pillar, has also needed periods of rest and we are so thankful for her.

We continue to share our pastoral couple with the Cornerstone Community Church (MB) in Flin Flon and there have been Sundays when we combine services. Joe Buie at Cornerstone has been helpful in helping us plan our Sundays.

On May long weekend we met at Simonhouse Bible Camp for Sunday service. Former pastoral couple Dale and Marge Warkentin shared with us on May 28. It was good to have them in our midst once again.

On June 11 we had a combined service at the Rotary Wheel where we sat around the fire and roasted hotdogs. On July 2, the Sunday during the Homecoming in Flin Flon, all churches in our area had a combined service at the Lutheran Church. On July 9 Trevor Friesen came to NFC while Rebekah rested at the lake with sister Sara Lynne and Dave Koop. They have moved back to Canada and are now settled in Rosenort. We pray for the restoration of Rebekah’s health and for their re-adjustment in Canada.

On July 23 we had a combined service when the Simonhouse Bible Camp staff came to share their experiences; and in August we will meet together when Nathan and Emily Willems come to share with us before they go with their family to Papua New Guinea within the following year.

Our Kids Club has grown this past year. Children come after school on Tuesdays, and we have had 35 on our roster with an average attendance of 21. The hour keeps us hopping with hot chocolate, snacks, crafts, story, game and music. Judy Schmidt has graciously come from Cornerstone to help with snacks. We have appreciated Austyn Davis, a young student, who has come to give a hand. As well, Randall, Faith, Janice, Kristen, Fae, and Yvonne come out to help with clean up, dishes, and helping here and there.

Snow removal, grass cutting, and cup washing somehow gets done by those who almost do these jobs in secret! I do believe that the “behind the scenes” workers are Randall, Lee, Yvonne, Shawn, Barb, Lorne and Jerry. Tom Fehr brings his mother Helen, and we are so glad she moved here from Carrot River.

We appreciate Mike and Deanna Anderson for their presence whenever their work shifts permit them to come. Evelyn (four years old) and Ollie (one year old) continue to enlighten our Sundays and they also enjoy puppets Froggie (Kevin) and Susie (Kristen).

Kristen Imrie often leads the singing, accompanied by Faith at the piano, and Kevin Imrie usually treats us to violin at the closing congregational song.

In closing, I also want to extend a huge thank you to our EM Conference for their continued support. We miss Ward Parkinson who was always so supportive of us up north and say thanks to Ralph Unger, our interim conference pastor. We look forward to meeting with Layton Friesen, who has been appointed conference pastor and began his position this fall.