By Matt Vasko, Director of Religious Education
May is Mental Health Month and I think it provides us with an excellent opportunity to work toward reducing the stigma around talking about mental health. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has launched a campaign in honor of Mental Health Month entitled “#RealConvo.” The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to have real and meaningful conversations with their friends and loved ones about mental health. I believe these types of conversations are among the key ways to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
Let’s face it, mental health is as important as physical health. You simply can’t have whole wellness without mental wellness. So, it’s time that we start to talk about mental health the same way that we talk about physical health. We can talk to our doctors about our mental health at our annual check-ups. We should reach out for help with our mental health from professionals when we need it. There is no shame in tending to your mental health. The only shame lies in continuing to suffer needlessly.
Perhaps you are experiencing mental health concerns, but you are not ready to reach out for professional help. Or perhaps you feel like it would help to talk to someone, but you just don’t feel like it rises to the level of needing professional help. That’s okay! In cases like this, please know that Rev. Lissa, the Pastoral Care Team, and I are all resources that are available to you. There is a great deal of support available to you here at church, so feel free to utilize it!
Church member Susan Pender and I are also taking this opportunity during Mental Health Month to officially launch Team Lukas for the 2019 Out of the Darkness Greater Los Angeles Walk. This is a walk that benefits all of the programs and research of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their goal of a 20% reduction in the suicide rate by 2025. Team Lukas is named for Susan’s son Lukas Pender who died by suicide on November 8, 2012. Lukas was a member of Neighborhood’s Senior High youth group and an artist, poet, musician, and champion for social justice. We walk in his honor and his memory.
This year, the Out of the Darkness Greater Los Angeles Walk will start in Pasadena’s Central Park on Saturday, November 2nd, at 9 AM. Susan and I have set an ambitious goal to recruit 35 walkers and together raise $5,500 for AFSP. We hope that you will join us. Click here for more information and to join Team Lukas.
I want to leave you with one final thought:
You matter. Your life matters.
If you are ever considering hurting yourself, please know that your community loves you and we would never want you to do that. If you are in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Now, you can even text to connect with a Crisis Counselor. Simply text CONNECT to 741741.