My family plunged into the world of mental illness when a loved one was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over ten years ago.
We went from being clueless to finding ourselves immersed in a world of psychiatrists, therapists, in-patient behavioral health units, ER visits, prescriptions, side effects, encounters with law enforcement, counselors, support groups, and countless books, websites, articles, and news stories. Looking back, it’s overwhelming to trace our journey; we’ve been through a lot.
But every experience led to a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, how to accept brokenness, and how to love fiercely. The journey has been deeply spiritual and incredibly formative. We’ve found ourselves educated about something that 20% of our fellow humans go through—so there’s been an uptick in empathy and understanding in our family. And, as we’ve learned to say with gratitude and grace:
WE’RE STILL HERE.
And our perspective has changed. Just as we are all in some state of physical health, with none of us experiencing anything near perfection, it is imperative that we learn to see mental health through the same lens.
Just as my physical health might include a few extra pounds, eczema, a Vitamin D deficiency and slightly elevated cholesterol, my mental health may include anxiety, heightened stress, and some negative thought processes. When those few extra pounds progress to the point of high blood pressure or heart disease, it’s time to seek treatment. When negative thoughts become recurrent and debilitating, it’s time to seek treatment. Caring for our health is imperative—physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Exploring options for mental health treatment can be a scary first step, but it’s an important one. Be objective and give yourself and your family a ton of grace. And be confident in this truth: Therapy, medication, self-care, education, and support work together to make stability and recovery a reality for many people experiencing mental illness.
It can get better. You are not alone.
The majority of individuals dealing with a mental health issue—for themself or for a loved one—turn to a spiritual leader or their church first for help. If that’s you, here’s what we want you to know:
We’re glad you are here.
It takes courage to reach out and begin the conversation—so we’re glad you’ve taken the first step! We believe that mental wellbeing is an essential part of everyone’s spiritual journey, and we treat it as such. People who are dealing with mental illness will never be shunned, mocked, gossiped about, or turned away from our faith community.
You’re not alone.
One out of every five Americans is diagnosed with a mental illness every year. That’s twenty percent of any group of people. In my immediate family of nine, four of us have sought counseling and treatment for our mental health—we fit right in with that statistic. In any church gathering—virtual or physical—look around: You’re not the only one.
God sees you.
Regardless of where you might be on your spiritual journey, we believe that God sees and cares about you right now, wherever you are and whatever you’re experiencing. The Bible assures us:“Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” (Psalm 34.17-18, The Message)
Mental health matters.
It’s complicated, because mental illness affects how we behave, how we think, and how we see ourselves. It can wreak havoc on relationships and the general ideas we have about what it means to be successful and “normal.” But illness is illness—whether mental or physical. Mental health originates in the brain—the most complex and wonderful organ in the human body—influenced by genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Throw in traumatic events, stressful conditions at home or work, biochemical processes, basic brain structure, and the impact of substances and diet; add to the mix an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, social isolation, cultural and political upheaval—it’s not difficult to understand how overwhelming it can be to our brains. Viewed objectively, it’s essential common sense that we view the care and treatment of mental illness just as we would any physical illness.
Treatment is available.
It can be overwhelming, and frightening; if you’ve never had to seek treatment for mental health, it’s hard to know where to start. But like Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” There’s an entire tribe of people who are ready and able to offer treatment, guidance, and support.
If a situation is critical, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Richmond-area hospitals with behavioral health units include Chippenham, VCU, St. Mary’s, and Richmond Community Hospital, but in an emergency situation, the nearest ER will provide treatment and guidance.
Crisis lines are free and confidential. Most are available 24/7.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE – (800) 273-8255
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE CHAT – suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat
POWHATAN / GOOCHLAND COUNTY CRISIS COUNSELING – (804)598-2697
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY CRISIS COUNSELING – (804)748-6356
FARMVILLE / BUCKINGHAM / CUMBERLAND COUNTY CRISIS COUNSELING – (434)392-8177
CROSSROAD COMMUNITY SERVICES (AMELIA, BUCKINGHAM, CUMBERLAND, NOTTOWAY, PRINCE EDWARD COUNTIES) – (800) 548-1688
RICHMOND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AUTHORITY CRISIS LINE – (804) 819-4100
NAMI HELPLINE – (800) 950-6264, Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm
NAMI CRISIS – TEXT ‘NAMI’ TO 741741
To Write Love On Her Arms https://twloha.com
Jed Foundation https://www.jedfoundation.org
Bipolar Hope https://www.bphope.com
Talk therapy is an essential part of mental health treatment.
- Don Parks,LPC, LMFT- (804) 977-1187 (Henrico) or (804) 467-9000
- Shepherd’s Staff Counseling (shepherd-staff.org) (804) 327-0707
- Note: Offering in-person (Richmond), phone and zoom sessions
- Jennifer Collins
- Stephen Booth
- Note: Offering in-person (Richmond), phone and zoom sessions
- Christian Counseling Associates (christiancounselors4va.com) (804) 592-2793 (Glen Allen)
- Powhatan Family Counseling (Judy Cain-Oliver) – (804) 598-9577
Sarah Francis – couple and female individual – (804) 833-4904 (meeting at Midlothian Campus)
Hope for Tomorrow Counseling – (434) 392-4073 (Farmville)
New Beginnings Family Counseling – (434) 984-0023 (Charlottesville)
Footsteps Christian Counseling – (804) 715-3215 (Mechanicsville)
Talkspace’s mission is to make therapy and psychiatry more available and affordable. Our goal is to provide convenient access to licensed providers—to support the mental wellness of those in need.
Making professional therapy accessible, affordable, and convenient — so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime and anywhere.
Christian faith-based therapy by licensed professionals.