Nobody checks themselves into a mental health facility just for the fun of it. Desperation is usually the motivation.
For several years, I was a therapist for a partial hospitalization program. Many of the patients were middle aged adults who were in desperate situations.
Our partial program served people who had dual diagnoses of mental health and substance abuse disorders. Many were discharged directly from acute care hospitals to our program. Some came to us by court order. Many came because they didn’t want to lose their job or their family. Others decided that three weeks in an all-day group setting with intensive therapy might be their last hope, after they had lost their job and/or their family.
So often, I thought if these people, whose lives were wrecked by age 40, could have done things differently much earlier, they wouldn’t have ended up in such a mess. If someone could have gotten to them when they were teenagers or even children, their lives might have been much different. If they had made better decisions, they might not have ended up where they were. They were broken people.
Then my next job was serving as a counselor in elementary schools in a disadvantaged community. In seventeen years I saw hundreds and hundreds of children from kindergarten through sixth grade. On the surface, they had academic or behavioral problems, but underneath, there were deep emotional wounds. Some had serious mental health diagnoses. Others had physical conditions that made life difficult. Most came from homes where poverty, substance abuse, or instability, for a variety of reasons, hindered their ability to function successfully in a classroom.
Whatever you hear or read about your local community that involves news about crime or social problems, keep in mind that there are probably children who are affected by those situations. It didn’t take long for me to see that children have little to no control over their family situation or their environment. Other people make many crucial decisions that affect their childrens’ lives for the present and have lasting effects for their futures. Many of those are bad decisions.
I frequently reported instances of child abuse to the local authorities. One year I saw between 25 and 30 elementary children who expressed some kind of suicidal ideation. Desperate adults and desperate children make desperate decisions. People can be broken at any age. Granted, I saw a skewed population, but it was a small town.
In a public school setting, faculty and staff are not supposed to talk about religion with students because of separation of church and state issues. When I talked with these children about life and death matters, I tried to do a lot listening and ask questions that might help them find some hope. But I couldn’t offer Jesus. I found ways to ask about their church experience, and what their family told them about matters of faith or right and wrong. But it was so limiting. I did some good, but it was never enough.
People need the Lord. Middle aged people, old people, young people, and children need the Lord. I’m all for professional, skilled counseling. I believe physicians can prescribe medications that can do wonders for young and old. I believe strong support systems and healthy friendships are life-lines for hurting people.
Christians are carriers of the Holy Spirit and image-bearers of the Creator. We take His presence with us into desperate situations.
You’ve heard the saying, “Preach the gospel. Sometimes use words.” There are so many broken people out there. They are desperate for peace, hope, and healing. Sometimes the right words need to be spoken aloud. Only the One, whose name means Salvation, the Great Physician can make us whole. Yeshua/Jesus. Speak His name aloud.