I saw an interesting report on the news. It seems The American Psychiatric Association is poised to release new diagnostic guidelines for mental illness. There is a chorus of critics that say things like, “The new manual too often turns normal reactions to life events into diagnosable mental conditions.” Others criticize the 1000 page book because it blurs the lines of definition for some disorders and may threaten access to some services for folks who need them.
And of course, other mental health professionals are applauding the clarifications noting that medical diagnoses have certainly expanded over the last 100 years and need clarification from time to time. (Interestingly, one expert noted that in the 1800s there were only two mental health diagnoses: idiocy and insanity.)
At about the same time that I read about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), I read about Jamie Grace.
Christianity Today says that “Jamie Grace Harper may be the world’s only musician with Tourette syndrome, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, echolalia, anxiety disorder” who has also been nominated for a Grammy Award.
This is an amazing young woman. She tours nationally with the “Women of Faith,” won the 2012 Dove Award for New Artist of the Year, acted in a movie (Grace Unplugged) and managed to graduate from college. And she is very open about her struggles with Tourette syndrome. She was 8 years old when the tics (involuntary movements and sounds) began.
She says, “It took our lives for a spin. I learned early on that Tourette’s is not life threatening, but it is life altering.” She talks about the challenge of repeating random and obscure things over and over again and how to deal with it all. She says, “Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.”
As I read those two articles, the one highlighting all the issues associated with meeting the need of folks with some sort of mental illness, the other cheering on a young recording artist who is having quite an impact; I could not help but do some personal pondering.
Maybe this week you can be challenged to consider a few things too. Question number one: How is the church responding to a culture that has tons of labels but not much compassion for people who are different? Question number two: How are we reaching out to individuals and families who struggle everyday with some of these diseases? Question number three: What is the depth of my own understanding and empathy for men and women who are mentally ill?
As you ponder, may I suggest you download Jamie’s single, “Hold Me” and let her experiences help form some of your thoughts.
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel