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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Diss

For 9 April 2020: Holy Thursday

Read: Matthew 28:16-20

I haven’t written a "Mornings On The Front Porch" for the last two days. I’m going to tell you why in today’s edition but let me warn you, the topic for today is uncomfortable.

I received a call. A friend from another time and place in my life was calling. I answered. He was distressed. He’d just found his nephew; he had attempted suicide. “Can you please come,” was the request. So, I went. I am very sad to report the nephew’s attempt was successful. This young man would have been 24 years old in a few months. I am deeply saddened.

Our “shelter-in-place” order is the proper thing for us to be doing right now. My grandmother survived the Scarlet Fever outbreak in the early part of the 20th century. My mother survived the polio epidemic of the later 1930’s. I have grown up with the outcomes of epidemics from previous generations. Just as we learned from those events, we will learn new lessons through this pandemic event. One of the things we are learning in this pandemic is the on-going need, and ever widening awareness of, mental health and mental illness.

Not long before the events which spawned this offering, I was asked if I thought there was more mental health and mental illness issues. I paused and thought about it for a bit. I answered, “No, I think the issues have always been there and just as widely distributed. We just weren’t aware of what we are aware of these days.” The conversation ensued about struggles with the public mental health care system. I continue to think that even more after what I have witnessed in the last forty-eight hours.

The details of this young man’s death beyond what I have shared already aren’t for me to tell. However, it is my thought that the isolation he experienced with the “shelter-in-place” order and his already existing (but not diagnosed) mental health issues were contributing factors. Even though I had seen and spoken to the young man twice in the last month, I had no hint he was even contemplating something of this nature. This is a common pattern in these type situations.

So today I write with a simple encouragement: If you are struggling with a sense of isolation from the “shelter-in-place” order, please reach out to someone. Please call a family member, friend, a pastor … someone. If you don’t believe there is anyone to call or who will listen, please call the NAMI hotline at 800.950.6264 or text “NAMI” to 741741. You may also call 800.273.8255, the national suicide prevention hotline. No matter the time of day, someone will be at either telephone number to respond. We are not alone; our community does care.

The “shelter-in-place” order is for the betterment of all. Had we practiced such things the outbreaks which left my grandmother and mother with life-long after-effects may have prevented them even contracting the diseases in the first place. The order is creating new stresses for us. Call or text if you are feeling those stresses. If you’re coming through without those type struggles, reach out to friends and family, particularly those who might be on the margins of family and friendship circles. How’s that cousin you haven’t seen for 20 years? What about that college classmate you were close to but haven’t seen since graduation? You’re friends on Facebook, why not reach out to check on them?

If you need the resources, please use them – NAMI and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are ready to help 24 hours a day. If you are a resource as a friend or family member, reach out. Folks are struggling. The best way to help with the sense of isolation and loneliness which many are experiencing (maybe even you the reader of this are experiencing those things) is to simply reach out and connect, and to keep doing just that. No matter how alone we feel, we aren’t.

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