Glenview Lantern May 11, 2017
Chris Falcon, Contributing Columnist
1:30 pm CDT May 8, 2017
Cancer is ravaging and unforgiving. We walk for that. ALS is crippling and unassuming. We splash for that. HIV is silent yet rampant. And we wear red for that. But there is one illness that is treated like no other. An illness that has most of us afraid to run, walk or even talk about.
Mental illness, also known as the invisible disease, has moved from the shadows and into the spotlight. With one in five Americans suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s becoming something we can no longer ignore. So why do we continue to do so?
Pastor Kyle Severson is changing how people view mental illness, not only in the church, but in the community. In the wake of his two-year anniversary at St. Philip Lutheran Church, Pastor Kyle has his eyes set on shifting attitudes and lifting spirits.
“It has always been apparent to me that we must serve those that are most vulnerable,” he said. “Individuals and families struggling with mental illness often don’t receive the support they need.”
The Lutheran church promotes a general message of supporting those in their time of need, but specifically addressing mental health is something that hasn’t gained much traction until now.
“There is a stigma that comes with mental illness,” Pastor Kyle said. “People suffering feel like they can’t share what’s going on. They feel like they shouldn’t share. By educating ourselves and bringing more attention to this issue, we can show them that they must share.”
Pastor Kyle is co-chair of the Glenview Values Project and a member of the Crisis Response Network of the North Shore. He is also a member of the Glenbrook Hospital Community Advisory Board, alongside 2016 Citizen Of The Year Jill Brickman. In addition to this, Pastor Kyle and his congregation are also members of the United Power for Action and Justice, a group made up of organizations striving to identify and positively impact social issues. With the help of his congregation, they were able to rally behind and encourage the efforts of Deputy Chief Stefan Johnson in bringing a Crisis Intervention Training program to the Glenview Police Department. That program has now trained more than 20 officers in comprehensive de-escalation techniques.
“Mental illness is often called the No Casserole Illness,” Pastor Kyle said. “If someone is sick with cancer, it is common for people to take food to the home to show support. When it comes to mental illness, those struggling typically don’t receive that support. To make matters worse, people often think families should be able to handle those issues within the home. They think it’s not serious enough to require community assistance.”
Pastor Kyle and St. Philip Lutheran Church are hosting a two-day training program called Mental Health First Aid from 1-5 p.m. on May 15 and 16. The program ($30) is designed to stimulate awareness, provide education and help people recognize the signs of mental illness.
“Part of the stigma is due to lack of understanding,” he said. “The more we talk about it, the more it normalizes. The more we address it with our children, the less they have to learn about it from movies and TV dramas. The more we come together, the more we can help those in need.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama said: “At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.”
Falcon Fit Tip: If we accept the pain of others as our own, we give ourselves the power to heal the world.
Chris Falcon is a certified personal trainer and founder of Reactive Performance Enhancement Center in Glenview. He is dedicated to helping people feel their best through healthy living on all levels.