A DAY BEFORE Mental Health Awareness Month began on May 1, the Judd family lost their beloved Naomi “to the disease of mental illness.” She was a wife, a mother and a country western superstar singer. That the family chose to publicly attribute Naomi’s cause of death to mental illness shows strength and honesty. And a desire to increase awareness.
Naomi was open about her severe, treatment resistant depression. She wrote about her mental illness in a book, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope, in 2016. I have yet to read this book, but I will. Soon.
Reflecting on Naomi’s death focused my thoughts on the many books I’ve read in recent years about mental health related topics. I’ve reviewed numerous books on my blog and written on the topic often. Why? Because I care. I care that people understand depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety… I care that we show compassion, support, encouragement and more to those dealing with these often overwhelmingly challenging and debilitating diseases. I care that stigmas vanish, that treatment options improve, that access to mental health care is easily and readily available to anyone anywhere anytime.
I care, too, that no one feels alone. That anyone dealing with a mental health issue understands they are loved, valued and cherished. That families, too, feel supported.
Much progress has been made in recent years to shine the light on mental health. I appreciate that. And I appreciate the efforts of groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But, still, it is up to each of us individually to do what we can to educate ourselves and increase awareness, to offer love and support… To be there. To listen. To recognize the value of professional help.
Clinical depression like Naomi Judd experienced is deep and dark and debilitating. She couldn’t talk herself/smile herself/lift herself out of the depths of such depression. Not alone. That’s what we all need to understand. Hers wasn’t situational depression. Hers was persistent, powerful, all-encompassing. And, in the end, it killed her.
I find that reading or hearing personal stories is often the best way to understand anything. That includes mental health. For that reason, I recommend you read one or more of the following books, which I’ve previously reviewed on this blog (click on the title to read my review):
Behind the Wall—The True Story of Mental Illness as Told by Parents by Mary Widdifield and Elin Widdifield
Fix What You Can—Schizophrenia and a Lawmaker’s Fight for Her Son by Mindy Greiling
Simply Because We are Human by K.J. Joseph
Unglued—A Bipolar Love Story by Jeffrey Zuckerman
One other book, which I’ve read and highly-recommend (but have not reviewed) is Troubled Minds—Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson. A friend referred me to this book and it’s a must-read. I’ve marked the pages with about a dozen Post-It notes. It’s that good, that invaluable for faith communities. Anyone really.
Thank you for reading this post. Thank you for caring about mental health. Thank you for doing your part to shine the light. To be the light.
TELL ME: Are there any books about mental health that you recommend? Or, if you have other thoughts to share on the topic, please do. We can all learn from one another.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers online, telephone and in-person support (through local chapters). Call the HelpLine at 800-950-6264.
Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
this is vitally important to learn about and discuss
It absolutely is and thank you for saying that.
When I heard this the other day it was like a punch to the gut and brought up some good as well as painful memories for me in regards to family and friends. I am so grateful that mental health is being talked about more and openly too. That it is okay to not be okay and seek professional help. The hurdle for some people experiencing mental illness is the access to the care they need (i.e., it cannot take weeks or months). Thanks for sharing the resources available, especially the hotlines. Take Care
I understand your punch to the gut reaction. I think every single one of us has been personally touched by mental health struggles.
Thank you for specifically pointing out the need for immediate access to care. The wait in rural Minnesota to see a psychiatrist, if you can find one who will accept new patients, can be six weeks or more. That’s the rule rather than the exception. This is unacceptable.
Thanks Audrey for reminding us all about the importance of understanding and loving those with mental illness. A simple smile and “hello” can mean the world to someone feeling despair.
You are welcome, Jackie. Every connection matters, even a “hello” or a smile.
Thanks for this Audrey. Good recommendations for reading, and a good reminder to continually try to understand and love to those with mental illness. I didn’t remember May was Mental Health Awareness Month.
And thanks to you, Valerie, for gifting me with “Troubled Minds” several years ago.
I’m glad you found it valuable.
Heartbreaking! I have watched loved ones struggling with depression and I’ve struggled myself with grief but I can’t even imagine struggling daily like this. So sad
Same here in watching those I know struggle with depression. We need to be there for them, as I’m sure you were. You have endured much grief and I am sorry for the loss of your dear loved ones (your sister especially).