Thursday, May 11, 2017

Family Night: Improving Family Communication 4

Note: May is Mental Health Month. To help increase awareness of mental health and mental illness, I thought a family night discussion might be beneficial. Like so many other families out there, mental illness has had a direct impact on me and my loved ones. This lesson is part of a series written to promote improvement of communication in the home. You can see an earlier lesson here and here. Want to receive notification of future lessons to be posted in this series? Like my Facebook page.

Mental Health Awareness

Purpose: To help family members be aware of and better understand the impact of mental health on communication at home.

Scripture: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; emphasis added).

Thought: “When conditions affect functioning in school, employment, church, or relationships it is time to seek help” (Dean E. Barley).[1]

Key Term: Mental Health – “Emotional and spiritual resilience that enables us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment, and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own and other’s self-worth.”[2]

Lesson: In 1971 poet Emma Lou Thayne and composer Joleen Meredith were asked to write a closing musical number for a Young Women’s conference. Emma Lou called Joleen and over the phone the hymn “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” came together. “We determined this was a mental illness hymn,” Joleen noted. “Emma . . . was struggling with the mental illness of one of her daughters at the time this was written, and I was struggling myself personally with mental illness. And so we lovingly call it ‘The Mental Illness Hymn.’” Sisters Thayne and Meredith themselves found comfort in knowing the Savior, “He, only one,” understood their challenges.[3]

Mental illness occurs in approximately one in four individuals and can take many forms, including depression, ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders, and schizophrenia, among others. Because mental illness often impacts perception, it can significantly complicate our ability to communicate with others. Working to develop patient listening and verbal communication skills in the home can help to improve interpersonal relationships. Specifically, controlling tone of voice, making good word choices, and practicing self-care can enhance are essential.

Often those who struggle with mental health have difficulty finding inner peace. “Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came,” taught Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. “It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.”[4]

Activity: Hand out the lyrics to “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” and sing the hymn to open family night. After introducing the lesson, show a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the same hymn. After the video, ask family members to share parts of the lyrics they like. Note: if needed, define the word ‘solace’ as meaning comfort or consolation.

For Little Ones: Gather together items (bandages, tongue depressor, sling, etc.) that can be used to play a pretend game of doctor. Have little ones pretend to have a broken arm, a bad cut, or some other obvious sickness, while a parent or older child plays the role of doctor. After “treating” these pretend obvious illnesses, explain that some people have disabilities that cannot be seen. Mental (explain this means in the brain) illnesses, although less obvious, still have symptoms causing pain, distress, and sadness.

Challenge: Many mental illnesses begin to manifest at a young age. As with all serious illnesses, the sooner people get help and treatment, the better the outcome. Use a reliable reference guide to look up common symptoms of various mental illnesses and review these as a family.

Suggested Music: “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” (Hymns no. 129) or “I Feel My Savior’s Love” (CS p. 74).

[1] As quoted in: Lisa Ann Jackson Thomson, “Know the Signs,” BYU Magazine, Spring 2017, 24
[2] Health Education Authority, UK, 1997.
[3] “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” History of Hymns, Episode 18,
[4] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Like a Broken Vessel,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 41

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