It is an illness that affects about one in five Americans every year: nearly 43 million people. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. The World Health Organization estimates that it poses a greater economic and social burden on global market economies than any other disease.

Chances are, someone you know and care for is affected by some form of mental illness. It shows no preference for any one demographic or life stage, and casts a long shadow in the homes, schools, and workplaces throughout our communities.

In 1949, the agency Mental Health America (formerly called the National Association for Mental Health) designated every May as Mental Health Awareness Month. You may want to visit their website for resources for yourself or someone you love.

I invite you to take a moment to pray for those affected by some form of mental illness. Work to overcome your own prejudice against people who are suffering, and help stem society’s stigma. And take a moment to reach out in love and concern to loved ones you know who deal with this on a daily basis. Offer them a note of understanding, a compassionate ear, or simply a kind word.

And if you are one of the millions dealing with mental illness, know that you need not take this journey alone. Seek out the trusted counsel of a friend or professional, and feel the presence of God’s peace in your life.

A WORD TO OUR YOUTH

I would also like to offer a special word to the youth of this church and their families, in the wake of the news of the third suicide by a youth in South Tampa over the last six weeks. I am aware that many of you are personally connected to one or more of these families, and I share in the grief, confusion, and sense of loss that you and others are feeling.

It is in times like these that I give thanks for the gift of Christian community, such as what we have in Merge here at the church. This is a place where you can be real with God and with people that you can trust, to share the deepest thoughts and feelings that you are struggling with. I’d like to remind you that at any time, Emily and her youth team, as well as I and the whole clergy staff, are available to talk to you about whatever you are facing.

There are also many resources available to those who are dealing with thoughts of suicide. Please make your friends aware of these agencies who are willing to help at any time:

Here is the information for Crisis Counseling, available any time year-round:
Call = 2-1-1
www.crisiscenter.com

Here is the Free Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is confidential and always available.
Call = 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
www.suicideprevetionlifeline.org

Most of all, I want to remind you of just how loved and supported you are in this church. You need not ever feel like you are alone in your life, and I firmly believe – with all my heart – that God has an amazing plan for your life, to make a huge positive difference in the world.

Hyde Park Family, together we can be a beacon of light for those who walk along dark paths. Together, let us continue to make God’s love real.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park Untied Methodist

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