All Saints Gather Lutheran Church

'People of Christ, Living in Community & Working in Partnership'

Companioning the mentally ill

What does it mean to be a companion to a mentally ill person? Can I, an ordinary citizen, do it?

Being a companion is as simple as being a friend, a friend that has learned a few insights and boundaries, and who has a large capacity for compassion. There is no medical advice, or monetary help but there is a lot of listening and care given. Any person can be a companion, share a cup of coffee or tea in a public space and simply “be there” for another human being who is in need. Mental health professionals like psychiatrists and nurses and peer counselors and the like are very important, but there are not enough to do all the caring that is needed. We need more “everyday” people to pick up the slack, devote some time and reach out to make a difference in a fellow human beings life.

Mental Illness and violent acts

This past week or so has been a troubling time as the nation and especially Roseburg Oregon, endures yet another mass shooting event.
These events usually wind up with a lot of disparaging talk about the shooter and their family and the laying of blame. People seem to need to attach labels, like; crazy, terrorist, insane, nut job…etc. to the perpetrators … I suppose in order to label them and box them up for trial and disposal from daily life. Eradicating the memory of the person from life does much to help the general public deal with the crime, but it does little for victims families and little for the mental health community. As with most crime, it is only a small minority that commits the crime that often winds up labeling the whole group.
The trouble with labels is that they promote and drag on the stigma that goes with a mental illness diagnosis. The stigma then reinforces the general public’s views of “those people” and then the unwillingness to engage followed by the lack of concern and avoidance and… you get the idea. No one wants to address the problem, let alone actually DO something to help. Our nation needs a lesson in compassion and forgiveness, and after the lesson a much larger group of people needs to step up and ACT like caring citizens and learn what it takes to become a companion to a mentally ill person … instead of a judge.