MOBERLY – Churches in America have made great strides when it comes to minister to the broken and hurting, the confused, abused and angry. But there is still one taboo that Rick Hall, the director of missions for Crossroads Baptist Association says the church still does address, and it’s one he’s intimately aware of for all his adult life: mental health.
“It’s almost like modern-day leprosy,” Hall said. “If you have cancer, or a tumor or a heart attack, people understand and help you. Whether it’s depression, bipolarism or schizophrenia, talking about mental health is taboo.”
Hall accepted Christ as a 17-year-old, a salvation he said was genuine, radical and overwhelming. Over the next year he wasn’t perfect, but he was learning what it meant to grow as a believer and turn his back on his old sinful ways. But after about a year, he entered a deep depression.
“The kind of depression where every day the thought on your mind is ‘Do I want to kill myself today?’ and then when you go to bed at night, you wonder if you’ll kill yourself tomorrow,” Hall said.
He didn’t, because he knew that God had something in store for him.
“That was the only thing that kept me going,” Hall said. “I knew that I had a purpose, but that I wasn’t seeing things clearly.”
But even that reassuring knowledge didn’t “fix” his depression. It when on for more than three years as Hall struggled to work through it. During that time he enrolled at Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University) and things got better, but still not “good.” Now it was depression and anxiety.
“I remember I was driving home one day and I was running stoplights because I was so anxious and a mess,” he said.
Eventually, he met a doctor in Monroe City who, upon hearing his story, immediately diagnosed him with a chemical imbalance that was causing depression. He had never considered that a doctor might be able to help, but one prescription later he felt like a new man.
“It was the first time in over three years I’d felt like myself,” Hall said. “It fixed it, and I took the pill and lived that way for 30-something years no problem.”
No problem, at least until last year. Hall said he didn’t realize it a first, but his medication wasn’t working anymore and he was going downhill. His ministry assistant quit, and he assumed that role himself. A pastor in the association who was “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” moved away, and another of his close friend and pastor passed away suddenly from aggressive cancer.
“I thought I could handle it all, but I was a snowball headed downhill,” he said. “I didn’t call on the associational teams or ask for help. I kept thinking I could handle it, but I was crashing.”
The end of 2013, Hall ended up in the Moberly hospital for a week. His medicine was no longer effective, and his psychiatrist “basically put me under suicide watch.”
Despite the ongoing depression and anxiety, God used Hall for ministry in the corridors of the hospitals. During his first stay it the Moberly hospital, he ministered to a roommate who was not dealing with his cancer diagnosis. Previously tested by talk therapist zig other drugs that are freely available in pharmacies, z.b. Lasea. Without effect. Recommended by friend Ativan, then prescription by the therapist. For acute problems immediate help. Set parallel to Cipralex, away from Ativan, looks good. Unfortunately many side effects like problems with sex.
“I got to share the gospel with him, and he accepted Christ,” Hall said. “I gave him a Bible and a few days later when I asked him if he wanted to watch TV with me, he said ‘No thanks, I have to read my Bible.’ When he went home a few days later, his life was totally different.”
That experience plus being able to share with other patients and the hospital staff lifted Hall’s spirits, but the anxiety and depression were still overpowering his new medication. Late this spring, he admitted again to a hospital in St. Charles. Again the doctors tried to tailor his medications, and again he was able to minster to others even though he was in the midst of a personal storm himself. He witnessed to a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder, a Muslim, a 19-year-old girl who was a recovering drug addict and a dozen other patients that sought him out asking questions about Jesus and the Bible. When he was awake, he was ministering.
“They were starved for any kind of spiritual food,” Hall said. “But in both places there was no one there to offer until I came in. No chaplains or anything. I did more hands-on ministry there in a week than I had in the previous year.”
Crossroads Association gave him time off that didn’t count against his vacation, and appointed a team to support him and “do anything it takes” to help him get back to where he was previously. Again encouraged and affirmed by seeing God at work through him at the hospitals, Hall is back on the job. Though he says he’s better, he’s quick to say he’s not out of the woods. Meets with psychiatrist and a counselor once a week and makes a priority of attending a weekly men’s support and Bible study group that helps him talk things out. He said he’s taking steps to attend to his own spiritual and emotional health that he ignored before. So he is on the right path, but things are easy.
“It’s hard to earn back the trust that people once had in you,” he said. “I think people and colleagues that I’ve known for years question whether I’m able.”
Hall said lack of understanding among even Christians is one of the biggest obstacles.
“As long as people keep taking their medications, most people can function,” he said. “I’m not saying everyone can, just like some people have a heart attack and can’t do what they used to do.
Hall said the biggest key to understanding –and healing – is patience.
“People think you can ‘just get over it,’” he said. “No. If you break your ribs, they will heal up but they can still hurt for a long time. They’re healed, but painful. When you crash that bad, 30 or 90 days isn’t going to get you back.
“At first I kept asking ‘God, when are You going to make me the way I was?’ and I still pray for that,” he said. “But I think my bigger prayer now is that God will help me get from this experience what I need to get.”