All quotes below are taken from the following sermon unless otherwise noted.
"I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel." Psalm 31:12
Like a Broken Vessel is a sermon by Jeffery R. Holland. This one was difficult to hear and difficult to study. I've witnessed cruelty and unkindness towards those with mental illness. Like Elder Holland, I can't understand why there is so much shame attached to it. It's not as if a person decides one day, 'Today, I'll ruin my life, alienate my family, end all my friendships, isolate my self, and possibly take my own life.' I knew a woman with MS, who progressed to total paralysis and dependence. She was still considered a loved member of her congregation and family. Nobody was angry with her that she could no longer walk or take care of her homemaking duties. I also know a woman who presented with depression early in life. After the birth of a child, her outbursts mingled with depression became unbearable for everyone around her. Drama and danger presented problems every hour of the day. However, her disabilities didn't engender compassion or desires to serve. Instead she was shunned and scorned by friends and family alike, because they saw it as a character issue. Why is this so?
If mental illness wasn't viewed as a paria or character flaw, possibly people with this affliction could be helped before they destroyed their lives. I once read a book, The Mind and The Brain. The psychiatrist tested his hypothesis that prevention could work as well as or better than drugs. His experiments proved it correct. Since all pharmaceuticals have undesirable and sometimes debilitating side-effects, this research seems inspired to me. Elder Holland echoes some of Dr. Schwartz findings as possible ways to nurture the mentally ill.
"In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill...Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that [God's love] bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead."
When we are so busy serving the lame and sick, let us not forget the needs of the mentally ill. Let us not forget compassion and charity. At the very least, let us not turn our backs or gossip instead of loving. "Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give “love unfeigned. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; … [it] beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth (1 Corinthians 13.)”