Monday, February 24, 2014

MENTAL HEALTH IN AFRICA




“The way language is used to conceptualise mental illness is essential to its understanding and treatment. In Lesotho, there is no Sesotho (the local language) equivalent for the English term “counselling”. Instead, a discussion among local health workers leads to a range of alternative expressions, from “Ho tastaisa motho fihela qeto” (to guide someone to reach a conclusion), “Ho thusa motho ho hlokomela” (to assist a person to realise his problem, to solve it and accept it), and “Ho tsehetsa motho” (to support). A study in Uganda sets out to assess levels of depression in a community, only to realise the term “depression” is not culturally appropriate. The terms Yo‘kwekyawa - hating oneself - and Okwekubagiza - pitying oneself - are used instead.
A lack of mental health policy, as well as social stigma, has meant that in much of Africa mental illness is a hidden issue. Without developing a language to discuss the problem, avenues to treatment and understanding of the phenomena in an African context remain seriously under-addressed.”

The problem is well stated.  There might not be an immediate action that would solve this very complicated issue, but a beginning could be made if churches and other nonprofit organizations working in Africa would take the problem on with the seriousness they have taken on other issues.

First, any organization with a primary care clinic should be offering mental health services integrated into their system of care.  These services should be informed by the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Also, going to the top of the list should be the knowledge of persons with lived experience and it goes without saying the services should always take into account the culture and beliefs of the people in the region in which the services are being offered.

Second, Christian faith communities should take on the task they were given by the Person they say they are following.  They need to embrace both suffering people and their families.  Materials are plentiful in America telling faith communities how to do this job, but I have found no materials culturally sensitive to any African nation or groups of African people.  For example, I have found nothing that would be suitable to help a congregation or pastor in Zimbabwe with embracing a person who had a psychiatric label and their family members.

Maybe it is time that the movement of persons with lived experience here in the United Sates started to look at what it could do to help the people already working on these issues on the continent of Africa.  MindFreedom Ghana is but one I can name.  The point is we need to take seriously the lack of attention this issue gets on the continent of Africa and how that contributes to severe human rights abuses and unnecessary suffering.  That should concern us all.

© Ed Cooper, February 24, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 23, 2014

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE WE?: A Poem & Art Work



We quote
     old sayings.
We drink
     old wines.
We treasure
     old art.
We collect
     old stamps.
We keep
     old coins.
We covet
     old cars.
We discard
     old people.

I ask
     what kind of people are we?

©Ed Cooper, February 23, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All Rights Reserved
   (A previous version of this poem was published in Christian-graphic in 1978)



Art by Ed

Saturday, February 22, 2014

THOMAS R. EDWARDS IS NOT A MYTH!

“I am a practicing and devout Atheist, and am quite happy with my life.”
“Tis nice to be mythology free.”

These two quotes are comments by Dusty Rhodes made to the blog post “THOMAS R. EDWARDS (1938-1999): Author & Friend” which was posted on February 14, 2014.  I have no idea what either comment has to do with my blog about my brother-in-law.  However, I felt it necessary to state unequivocally that Tom was a real person and what I said about him was not a mythological story.

If the comments were directed at the word Christian in the post, let me simply say that in the heading of home page of the blog the first word is Jesus and the second word is spirituality.  Should anyone reading the blog be surprised to find the word Christian in one of the posts on it?  The trouble with these comments is that they appear on a post that is about a man.  I posted it to commemorate the 15th anniversary of his death.  The post is not about religion, philosophy or someone else’s life.

I can’t just ignore the comments.  Since comments are open on my blog, anyone can post.  They can post anything and unless it is obscene I will not delete it, but I will respond if they offend me enough.  These two did offend me.

Now to directly respond to the comments even though they had no relationship to the post.  Why would “A devout Atheist” feel the need to post comments on a blog about our Jesus, spirituality, and other things helping people who have been given a psychiatric label?  Why would they need to tell us how happy they are?  You can answer that for yourselves.  I have my answer, but it is too judgmental for me to put in this blog.

There is nothing mythological about my belief system.  No one has to agree with me or believe as I do, but I know for certain that Jesus lives because He has kept me safe all these years.  I will not go into my story here, but to say I know because of where I have been and survived.  Atheism, agnosticism or ignosticism are all forms of intellectual laziness.  The question of a personal God is just too hard for them to work through.  In the case of ignosticism, a term coined by Rabbi Sherman Wine, they say we have to define God before we can discuss God.  The absurdity of that and the other positions is that until you shut your own mouth you will never hear God.  You can’t define God, but you can feel the presence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit if you get out of the way.
C. S. Lewis dedicated his life to intellectual honesty. 


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
C.S. Lewis

© Ed Cooper, February 22, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

STUDY A MIND WITH A MIND?

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

A reader wrote in a comment to a 2009 blog, “I do think we run a risk when we generalize from personal experiences.” I have given considerable thought to her assertion and still find myself wondering if it is as true as it sounds. I have to ask myself how much of our entire belief system actual comes from our experiences. I am aware that there is suppose to be something we call hard science. Knowledge developed from pure research that produces facts. Could those facts be tainted by the very method used to produce them?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."  So the research starts out with a hypothesis which means it starts out with “a proposition, or set of propositions, set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide investigation (working hypothesis)  or accepted as highly probable in the light of established facts.” Dictionary.com

It is important where the proposition or set of propositions come from. For example, a drug company may do research only to prove their drug works.  A behaviorist might design a study to show that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning.

I am also aware of folks who believe the Bible to be without error and the inspired Word of God. Therefore, there are sources that people believe facts can come from. However, we know that scientific facts are a moving target because almost no one still believes the earth is flat yet at one time that was the science of its day. We also know not everyone agrees the Bible is infallible and there is great disagreement on what it says. So I ask, what knowledge can we count on not to be tainted by opinion and personal experiences?

For example, looking at the question of how to define mind one runs into more curves and dead ends than almost any subject science tries to define. When researchers are studying mice, they are looking at less complex creatures than themselves, but when they are trying to define mind with their own mind a problem arises. Ask yourself a simple question, can they really objectively study a mind with a mind?

Let me back up. If you agree that a mind is merely a brain to be studied as we study any biological part of the human body, then you will not agree there is a problem. However, if you think the mind is more than a mere mechanical machine then we can go on. If you believe in God, pray to God, and believe humans have a soul, where is that connection made? Is it made in a mechanical machine or a mind which is more than a biological brain?

We think of ourselves as individuals to such a degree that we don’t recognize how much those around us have shaped us and how much we have influenced them.  We are not an island.

It is true that I cannot say how someone else experienced Hurricane Andrew, but I can make the generalization that many people were traumatized by it and still today suffer from having gone through it. 

Taking personal experiences and drawing generalizations or conclusions is one way we build community and empathy.  If we decide one human can never understand another human, then we might as well say community is just a word.

I believe that one of the major points made in the Gospels is that Jesus is trying to show that all people ought to be welcome into the community of the faithful.  The body of Christ should respond with compassion to those whose only crime are shattered minds and to all the other Outsiders.  The Christian community should be inclusive rather than exclusive.  If you want to belong to something that excludes the “undesirables”, then join a private club.  The Good Shepherd has open arms to embrace the “least among us”.

©Ed Cooper, February 19, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

   All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 17, 2014

DEAR PERSON LOVING ME

You can look at me
          with pity
or pick a path for me
          to take,
but if my mind is at
          warp speed
I won’t be able to ever
          reach the dreams
               you have for me.


So cure your fix-it syndrome
          and let me dream
on my own even if you think
          it leads me astray.
In the end I will reach
          the place made for me.
By listening to the voice within
          I will become the one
               I was born on earth to be.


© Ed Cooper, February 17, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All Rights Reserved
    Send comments directly to author
    




Friday, February 14, 2014

THOMAS R. EDWARDS (1938-1999): Author & Friend

It takes more than reading books or blogs about writing to become a published author.  You can read the advice given in them, join writer’s groups and build what they call a writer’s platform, but the real thing that gets you in print is a break.  That break for me came from a man who was the first author I ever knew.

Thomas R. Edwards (June 24, 1938- February 16, 1999) was many different things to different people.  To my oldest sister he was her husband, best friend and father of her three children.  He was a father and a brother-in-law.  To others he was their minister or for a few years also their local newspaper editor & publisher.  He was a fisherman and a photographer.  He was a missionary to Alaska and worked in sales for awhile.  He started and closed businesses, but he never stopped dreaming. 

Thomas R. Edwards was an ordained minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ. He was ordained into the ministry by his home church in Vincennes, Indiana in 1962.  He held a B.S.L. from Johnson Bible College now Johnson University and a Masters of Sacred Literature from Louisville Bible College.

He was a great friend.  In some of my darkest days he called me regularly.  At the time I did not know he was dying, but now I feel sure he did.  The things he faced did not stop him from helping me.  That is a friend.  If you had asked most people in the larger family group, they would have said Tom and I were not very close.  They would have been wrong.  Let me tell you what we shared.

I have a signed copy of his book Publicize Your Church published in 1970 by Standard Publishing. We talked about the fact that Standard did almost nothing to promote the book.

I have a copy of his article that appeared in the April 1971 issue of “Alaska” for which he both wrote the article and did the photography.

I have a draft of the book and the book Seven Days to Freelance Writing which was published in 1992.


In a letter from him dated March 18, 1992 he told me about becoming “the president of the newly formed Frankfort Writer’s Guild.

In my copy of his last book Fifty Years of Faithful Preparation 1948-1998 my sister Jan, his wife, wrote “Thanks for all your encouragement as he tried to complete this project.”  I did not do anything.  He did for me.


He encouraged me to write and published my first fiction stories and poems ever seen in print.  I know my sister played a part in making the decision, but I also know that if he did not want them in his new venture “Christian-graphic” they would not have been in there.  I also know what he said to me.



He not only published my early work he edited and tried to get a novel of mine published.  The project came to a halt, but he put a lot of work into it. 


I have had a number of articles, a book, and a chapbook published and I write regularly on a blog since those early poems and fiction stories were published.  My friend is still pushing me to keep writing and to keep dreaming.

Here is one of the poems "Christian-graphic" published

DEN OF THIEVES
early one morning
on the way
from bethany to jerusalem
jesus came
upon a fig tree
being hungry
and finding it
without fruit
he cursed it

upon his arrival
in jerusalem
he went to the temple
finding what he
termed a
den of thieves
he cast
them out

i pray
that as he looks
at me
he finds the fruit
of christian love
and upon entering
my soul
the temple of god
he doesn't find
a den of thieves
           
Edward Cooper
(probably 1978 © "Christian-graphic")

Thursday, February 13, 2014

WAS EVE THE ONLY TRANSGRESSOR?

I was going through some old papers that I should have either filed or thrown away a long time ago when I ran across an article I had written some years ago about how I failed to understand the patriarchal demands of the church I grew up in.

1 Timothy 2:8-14
English Standard Version (ESV)
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  

The words are not hard to understand, but putting them together with what we know from other verses in the same New Testament does make the meaning hard to understand.  And really, did the author of Timothy want us to buy that Adam had no blame to bare in that deal in the Garden of Eden?  Was it really all Eve's fault?


Romans 16:1English Standard Version (ESV)
16: 1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, Footnotes: Or deaconess

There are many more references to the contribution women made to the early church.  In 1 Corinthians 11 you will find these words, "but any woman who prays or prophesies".  I don't think she does that when she is by herself.

If we paid as much attention to the words and actions of Jesus as we do to the words contributed to Paul that keep men in charge of the church, we would be about the work of spreading the Good News and doing the deeds that come from loving our enemies as much as we do ourselves. We would be doing Kingdom work for the Prince of Peace.

This is the verse that sums up things in the sight of Jesus. Written by the same author they say wrote the first verse I quoted.  

Galatians 3:28
English Standard Version (ESV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I don't think Adam should get off and Eve take all the blame and I don't think the bride of Christ should be run by males only.  I will not know for sure until I can ask Him, but for now my answer is that Eve was not the only transgressor.

Monday, February 10, 2014

MASHOKO MISSION FIFTY YEARS AGO


The country is now Zimbabwe
Material from the "Central Africa Story"

First Mention I could find of secondary school.


From 1969




Thursday, February 06, 2014

SHOULD THERE BE RESTORATIVE JUSTICE for CHILD MOLESTERS?

Kim Cottrell wrote “We have it all wrong. Shunning the offenders is not working.  Locking them up is not working.” http://www.the-broad-side.com/we-have-it-all-wrong-shunning-offenders-is-not-working-a-reaction-to-the-woody-allen-story

She is speaking about offenders of child sexual abuse.  Her reasoning seems to be that since child sexual abuse has not stopped we should stop shunning and locking up the offenders.  She offers her solution further in her article.

“Instead of hating (which I think of as genocide of the spirit) or locking people up, we could gather policy makers and mental health workers, legislators, and others who could insist insurance companies reimburse for family therapy as well as individual therapy.”

At the end of her article she says “When we reject and shun the offender, often a person who’s been integral to family or church or community..”
Does she think that therapy has a good track record with child molesters or that it matters what position or station they have held in society?

The sanest statement I found in this article was in a reply to it by a person identified as Kate who said “Embracing forgiveness is the essence of healing. But, understanding the psyche of the molester is NOT the job of the person who was hurt.  Taking care of ourselves is.”

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  All the details are not important, but it was over a number of years starting when I was young.  I have a dog in this fight.  The scars are still here and the abuse started over sixty years ago.  I have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) along with a few others out of DSM-5. 

We wonder which one of us out of the we was suppose to have built a healthy relationship with our abuser and just how were we to do this? Forget about DID which is a controversial diagnosis or phenomena and tell me how a person is suppose to develop a healthy relationship with their abuser?

Forgiving oneself for whatever part you think you played in you being abused is hard enough.  Forgiving the perpetrator is like climbing into the heavens compared to forgiving yourself.  I don’t even see the possibility of building a healthy relationship with your abuser.  I can’t conceive of a reason to try.

She even suggests leaving the children with the parent who has sexually abused them and let the mental health professionals fix the family.  Read it for yourself and see if you don’t agree that is what she is suggesting.  What a flawed idea.

“Nine separate time periods (or time gates) over the 25-year study period were examined (see exhibit 6). The increments in cumulative failure rates for new sexual charges are 4 percent per year through Year 3, dropping to 3 percent in Year 4 and 2 percent in Year 5. After Year 5, the charge rate continues to increase at noteworthy increments: 11 percent between Year 5 and Year 10, 9 percent between Year 10 and Year 15, 7 percent between Year 15 and Year 20, and 6 percent between Year 20 and Year 25. It is significant—and should be underscored—that, 10 years after discharge, there was a substantial reoffense rate (i.e., at Year 10, the recidivism rate for new sexual charges was 30 percent, and by Year 25, it had increased to 52 percent). Contrary to conventional wisdom, most reoffenses do not occur within the first several years after release; child molesters in this sample reoffended as late as 20 years following release.”  https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/163390.pdf (Remember these numbers are based on the times the offender is caught NOT THE TIMES THE OFFENDER COMMITS AN OFFENSE.)

The truth is no one knows how to predict when, where or on whom a child molester will act out their urges and impulses.  How big a risk are survivors suppose to take?  How big a risk are survivors suppose to be subjected to?  Would you really leave a child in a home where they had been abused?  I agree family is important, but not that important.

Will I be whole again without building relationships with my abusers?  Since death and not knowing where they are separate us, I am not facing that question directly.  However, I faced it at one time.  I never had a healthy relationship with any of my abusers.  I am not whole.

The absurdity of thinking the mental health system could keep children safe if only insurance companies would pay for therapy is beyond the pale.  If a child molester can keep from reoffending or at least from getting caught for 25 years, how does one even imagine therapy as a solution?  Remember a therapist can only go by what the person says and signs they think they read like body language etc.

Restorative Justice for Child Sexual Offenders is something that needs more than someone saying families need to be together.  It has to be based on more than some belief in the power of forgiveness.  It has to have some facts and rational thinking applied to it. It may be worth pursuing, but Kim Cottrell did not convince me. 

I believe in forgiveness even for the most evil person.  I believe in forgiveness even for me and I don’t know what all the people in me have done.  However, God is the forgiver and the judge.  One day there will be justice.  I have to believe this or I could not make it through the mourning for my inner child til the morn.

© by Ed Cooper, February 6, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

    All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

RENEWAL PILGRIMAGE™

RENEWAL Pilgrimage™

R-rediscover
E-enable
N-novel
E-earned
W-work
A-awaken
L-loving

There are lots of acronyms and systems that cover the subject of recovery.  Here, I am making an attempt to explain what I think it takes to renew a self that has been destroyed by trauma or simply by having to endure a psychiatric label in a society that tends to not welcome us. I don’t offer it as a treatment for anything, but I do believe it contains the ingredients necessary to accomplish the renewal of a self or of a soul.

You can’t even start the pilgrimage which spans a lifetime if you can’t rediscover the real you.  I mean if you let mental health professionals, friends or family define who you are you will never even get started.  You have to be strong enough to look deep into your soul and try to remember who you are.  I promise you that you know the person inside you.  You may have bought the story the others tell, but you do know the real story.  You know the truth.  It is there inside you for you to mine out of the deepest darkest corners of your being.  You must rediscover the real you to begin the pilgrimage to promise.

You have to enable yourself.  The opposite of enable is to disable.  Some people around you may be doing things to keep you disabled, but it is your job to break those bonds and enable yourself.  Empower, endow, permit, approve and implement those steps that start you on your way.  Don’t let people say you can’t. They don’t know what you can or can’t do.  You are your own boss.  Your freedom to be allowed to be yourself is a right you have simply because you are.

This pilgrimage needs to be full of novel ideas and actions.  You should try new, original, unique, fresh and innovative ideas and actions.  Not just for the sake of doing them or to drive the people who love you mad, but it is the only way to learn what you really like and what you are really like.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Standing still is a much bigger risk.  You will get nowhere on your journey.

Remember you have earned the right to make this pilgrimage and to do it your way.  You have endured and that means you can now become the person of your dreams.  You have earned the right to rewrite your story with the ending you want or at least with the direction you intend to take.

So no one thinks I am writing a fairytale, let me say clearly that what I am talking about will take work.  You will make progress and then fall backwards and then make some more progress.  At the time of this writing I am 65 and had my first contact with mental health professionals about 50 years ago.  I have seen the mountain top and the beautiful valley with the farms and streams.  I have crossed the ocean from New York to Cape Town on a ship.  I have also been homeless. I have been locked up in mental hospitals more times than I can count. (My longest stay was nine months.)  My point is you may have a rocky road, but you will be in charge of your life to the degree anyone is and not be at the mercy of the system.

One day you will awaken to find your pilgrimage has brought you home to your real self.  You know this person as you.  You have become free to be you.  You can Dream Again. You know everything is not roses, but you are you. What a day to celebrate when a person finds their self.

Loving is maybe the most important part of the pilgrimage. Learning to love the self you have found is essential, but most important is learning to love others.  It is in helping others that you will find the most rewards along this road leading to your learning to simply be you.

The pilgrim on this RENEWAL Pilgrimage™ who learns to serve humankind will never again have to worry about the story written about them.  It will be written in the Book of Life.

“Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3



©Ed Cooper, February 1, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
 All Rights Reserved






Saturday, February 01, 2014

COME SEE A TREE WITH ME

 Cover "Come See A Tree With Me"

Come see a tree with me
     which looks dead and weathered,
          but don't be fooled dear soul
               for this is the tree of Life.

If you came across this tree
     high on a mountain top,
          or low in the desert dying
               your tears might turn to blood.

For on a tree long ago
     it was the blood of God's Son
          that turned the cross into
               the tree of Life for us.

So when you see a tree
     dear fellow sojourner
          remember you are looking at
               the symbol of our salvation.

© 2008 by N.O.M.I. Inc.
by Ed Cooper, January 1, 2008, Glen Alpine, North Carolina
Published in a chapbook of poetry by the same name dedicated to Jo Jo & Tyler Story