Jesus tells a story about a man who was just going about his business, traveling the road of his own life, when he “fell among robbers who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” And though Jesus doesn’t name the victim, I think he was called “Douglas.”
This seems to be a story about my son, who as a teenager was living life and making his way toward his future when he was ambushed by mental illness, stripped of his dreams, beaten and bruised in his brain and left in a state of perpetual need. He didn’t choose bipolar disorder, he fell among it.
Like the man in the story, others pass by Douglas: the mental health system that can’t make an appointment with his psychiatrist for six weeks, despite the obvious need for adjustments to his medication; the legal system that can’t force him to get help until he is so sick he attempts to hurt himself or others; the medical privacy system that won’t let doctors talk to us, his most caring caregivers. These barriers steal opportunities for recovery and rob Douglas of safe passage to basic care.
When a person falls among the thieves of mental illnesses, healing doesn’t come just through the concern of a Samaritan or the care of an innkeeper, however. Recovery takes a community — mental health professionals, support groups, family members, friends, clergy, neighbors and more. For help to be effective, all efforts have to begin not from a posture of judgment, or indifference or fear. Instead, the gathering place is “compassion.” Let’s find our way there.
“Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
Luke 10:30-33 ESV