The show today is the first of a series honouring Mental Awareness month.
The goal this month is to build awareness of different mental illnesses. We are going to be doing some myth-busting and I want to highlight some incredible people who have lived experience, but have taken what was some of the hardest and darkest moments of tier life and now are using them to equip and strengthen others.
Starting off this month we are talking about bipolar and featuring Pastor Brad Hoefs.
Building awareness – Bipolar
Bipolar is a mental health disorder in the category of mood disorders along with depression and dysthymia, which is similar to depression but is milder and longer-lasting.
Bipolar is known for its’s features of having distinct manic (high moods) and depression (low mood) states. But also, people can experience long periods, up to years of normal moods without any symptoms.
Each person is unique in the severity of the high and low moods, how long they last and the length of normal moods in between episodes.
Scientists have not yet discovered a single cause of bipolar disorder. Currently, they believe several factors may contribute, including genetics, stress, brain structure and function.
Those who have a diagnosis of bipolar use similar treatments that other disorders require and have outcomes while they are positive for most people they do vary from person to person. The most common forms of treatment are Medication and counselling.
There are three myths that I think are common that I would love to dispel.
1. Bipolar is rare.
But in fact, it’s more common than you think. 2.8% of adults experience bipolar disorder. Thank mean if there are 100 people that live on your neighbourhood block then 2-3 of them would have a diagnosis of bipolar and if you have 400 people in your church then 11 people have a diagnosis of bipolar.
2. Those with Bipolar are just moody.
While people with bipolar disorder do experience extreme highs and lows, these are very different from the mood fluctuations we all experience.
Waking up happy, getting exhausted and irritable midday and having a good evening that leaves you feeling happy again doesn’t mean you have bipolar disorder. It doesn’t matter how often this happens to you. Even a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder requires several days in a row of manic/hypomanic symptoms, not just several hours.
For a diagnosis, Clinicians look for groups of symptoms, not just emotions. The hallmark highs and lows of bipolar disorder are extreme, often occur out of context and last for extended periods of time. This is not something that should be taken lightly or said flippantly. This experience can be debilitating and often requires hospitalizations.
3. People can stop taking their medication once their bipolar is under control.
The genuine negative side effects that medications can have can be awful. Taking medication for bipolar disorder acts preventatively to help people avoid future manic or depressive episodes. If you are struggling with the side effects of any medication always consult with your doctor before starting or stopping any new medications.
If you don’t know where to start in talking about Mental Health at your church grab the MentalHealthSunday.com resource
In collaboration with other mission-minded organizations, I’m excited to launch the Mental Health Sunday resource Pack. This is an all-in-one resource that gives you everything you need to promote, prepare, and present a message on mental health and even continue the conversation with engagement strategies.
This resource is free to download, with a premium version available that allows you to customize all the graphics for your church.
This resource allows you to overcome these barriers by giving you sermon notes, research tools, graphics, a 7-day devotional and a small group curriculum for you to draw from in creating your message.
Pastor Brad’s Story
Brad’s mood began to shift as a young adult and he began to notice a change.
- He had a lot of energy
- Required very little sleep
- Most days were positive but had big swings with depressed days
- Felt like there was a pressure coming from the inside
- Would do impulsive activities
Brad’s ability to complete 3-4 times the work than others and his lack of need for sleep were celebrated because the results benefited the church however, at home things were getting worse.
- His energy was described as creative
- His negative leadership style was accommodated because of the growth in numbers
- At home his mood was volatile
- Agitation grew
- Engaged in high-risk behaviour
Brad describes that his cries for help were answered by God by having an encounter with the law.
- Was ticketed and his arrest was kept quiet
- Became public in the news and went on a leave of absence
- It took a long time to sort how what he was struggling with but saw a counselor right away
How Pastor Brad navigated the request to resign
- At a counsellor’s advice, brad did not resign but asked for support in getting well
- Attended an inpatient treatment hospital at Pinerest Hosptial
- Started medication and started learning more about Bipolar
- Took 7-10 years until he overcame shame
- Brad’s experience is not a sin issue, it was behaviour that is triggered by a brain that is not working right and unbalanced brain chemistry
Brad’s recovery Journey
- Brad started medication and learned about bi-polar
- Brad saw a counselor, doctor and had an accountability team
- And a community gathered around him to support him and have a soft landing
- Learned new hobbies to discover identity outside of ministry
Brad founded Fresh Hope after years of going to groups that didn’t meet his need.
- “When I found that my pain and darkest time of my life could be hope that’s when my pilot light turned on and regained my passion for life”
- I’m living proof that hope works
- The Church has an arsenal of people how have overcome and can share
About Fresh Hope
- Fresh Hope is across 14 countries and is running 100 groups
- Peer lead groups (online and in local churches)
- Loved one and person with the diagnosis attend the group
- Podcast and resources available
- Fresh hope for pastors
- Hope coaching
- Fresh Hope for widows
Three phases of recovery
- Making the decision to live
- Learning how to cope
- Living well in spite of mental health diagnosis
CONNECT WITH PASTOR BRAD HOEFS
CONNECT WITH HOPE MADE STRONG
Join the Church Mental Health Facebook Group! In the Facebook group, we chat about how to care for others, what are your challenges as well as share tons of resources. This is a great community of pastors, clinicians, and those with lived experience and we want to get to know you.