Mental illness is difficult. It makes us uncomfortable. It challenges us to face our own mental health issues. It calls us to love deeper. But the fact is, it scares us to death.
It is interesting to me how when someone is diagnosed with cancer or some other serious illness we rally around the individual, take them meals and offer to help them with daily needs. But when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, we stay away.
Mental illness is no different than any other physical disorder. These people are victims as well and need the extra love and care of a community — maybe even more so.
The movie brought to light how many with these disorders are really very intelligent and talented. I have seen this in my ministry over the years, and it is so sad to see how a brain chemistry attack can steal wonderful gifts that God has given these people.
That in and of itself is enough to cause us to reach out and support those struggling with mental illness.
But the other forgotten group are the caregivers of those with these illnesses. Often they have given up because they really have no support in dealing with a human being who is doing so many unreasonable things. So those with mental illness end up on the streets or moving from place to place.
We have organizations, walks, races, banquets, seminars and rallies for almost everything except those who struggle with mental health issues.
Churches and communities need to get involved because society is still very silent on this tremendous problem.
If any other illness or disease were stealing this number of talented and gifted people from us, there would be movement.
Some things are being done but when you see the statistics, it's not enough.
Let's think about what we can do for those so seriously ill, so imprisoned, impoverished and punished by their psychoses, that they are not at all "like you and me" — the 150,000 mentally ill who are homeless, the 231,000 who are incarcerated due to acting out when untreated, the 5,000 people who took their lives this past year, the 70,000 in state psychiatric hospitals and the 28 percent who get food from garbage cans.
They don't deserve to be ignored. They are "the least" in our society.
And as a great man once said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
The Rev. James Williams is a Sun community columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.