I’ve been working with youth and a few adults in mental health for a while now. One of the most frustrating things I have encountered during this time is a culture that seems entirely against the success of those with mental health challenges.
“If you can’t keep up, then you’re in the way” is our culture’s motto. The problem with this philosophy is that although we may be talking about people who to us think differently, speak differently (if at all) and act ‘strangely’ we are still talking about people.
When we base someone’s value on what they can or cannot do, then we have created a culture of discrimination. Today even the most basic jobs are at a premium and require higher education, self-direction and the ability to quickly learn new skills, but what happens to those who can’t regulate their emotions? What about those who have trouble understanding basic directions?
I can’t help but feel like sometimes we are asking the mentally disabled to jump on a ship that is moving entirely too fast for them to catch and if they don’t make the jump we turn a blind eye and let them drown. As a mental health worker, this is where I come in and where the great people I work with such as therapists, social workers, advocates, supports coordinators etc. come in. When the doors of the American Dream are shut in the face of the disenfranchised, we reach out our hands and work to open them again.
More importantly, we help to fulfill their personal dreams. We know we can’t reach everyone and although we advocate, we may not always be able to open the eyes of politicians. Nevertheless, what we can do is be intimately involved in the lives of others. In this way, we will be “making a difference one life at a time.”
Like Jesus who welcomed the ‘outcasts’ of His day to the dinner table, we bridge the gap between a cold culture and a warm smile. Jesus made sure that those who had been forgotten by society knew they had intrinsic value to Him. Not because they had wealth, fame or status but simply because they were human.
Who can you show that they are valuable the week? Not because of anything they have to offer but simply because…they are?