The Stability Network Experience

By a matter of serendipity in early 2017, I was invited to join The Stability Network.  

The previous year, as a contract employee at Cummins Engine Company, I had put together a business case for creating a Mental Health Affinity Group.  The company already had other Affinity Groups that were focused on African American employees, Newcomers, LGBTQ employees, etc.

The intention was to create a safe place for those who identify with having a mental health diagnosis to share coping skills and their aspirations for success while effectively managing their mental health struggles. Unfortunately, my contract with Cummins ended and my main “corporate champion” for the cause was transferred to India.  

Through this process, I met Donna Hardaker.  When I was asked to create a business case for the value of the Affinity Group, Donna helped me find the statistics and other organizations already doing this kind of work. Donna is extraordinarily knowledgeable about the mental healthcare system. I was intrigued by her unique sense of the masked stigma and unique challenges that people with mental health diagnoses face in their career development.

After it was clear that the Affinity Group development had stalled, Donna surprisingly invited me to join The Stability Network. I was honored by the invitation and gladly accepted.

This past weekend, I attended The Stability Network’s national meeting in San Francisco. It was a follow up to last year’s regional meeting in New York City.  The energy at the meeting and the natural bonds between all the members was a great atmosphere to be around.

Over the past 2 years, my involvement has helped me gain deeper relationships with other mental health advocates, helped me craft my own advocacy storytelling techniques, and inspired me to start the Revealing Voices podcast. The Stability Network inspires and encourages people experiencing mental health challenges to thrive. I am fully committed to the vision to help people with mental health challenges to thrive in workplaces and communities.

As Tony and I prepare for season 2 of Revealing Voices, we will be highlighting some of the individuals from The Stability Network who boldly share their mental health journey.

During my time in San Francisco, I was blessed to get the chance to ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. The sight of this engineering marvel rising from the fog filled me with gratitude. The trip was rejuvenating and I’m energized by all my fellow advocates across the country.

Tony Roberts is Delighting in Disorder

My Story

In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a small village church.  One Sunday, I delivered a sermon on human illness and divine healing in which I shared these words:

When we become ill, it is important to listen to our bodies and pray that God help us make necessary changes. Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. We may be expecting too much from ourselves, or avoiding things we need to face. As we listen to our bodies, talk and reflect with others, and pray together, we can gain spiritual insight which will help us live healthier, more productive, more abundant lives.

The next day, I was in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital. I was told I had bipolar disorder, that I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would likely end, and that I would spend the rest of my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

By the grace of God and with much help from many others, I served another dozen years of fruitful ministry, was married “for better and for worse” for twenty three years and have mostly progressed in treatment to enjoy what my psychiatrist calls “maintenance remission.”

My Message

Having served over twenty years in ministry while wrestling with a serious mental illness, I have a message of Good News to share. This is not just positive affirmation meant to cover up feelings and shame and fear.  It is not something I’ve picked up from one of the countless self-help books on the ABCs of analysis and treatment. It is certainly not that I have attained victory over bipolar through divine intervention alone and I no longer need medication or therapy.

The Good News we have to share is instead the hope that, with Christ’s saving grace, the hellish impact of mental illness will be bearable. God is with me even in the darkest valleys of despair. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Our hope, the Good News is that God has a purpose for our lives. And when we carry this hope, we find fellowship with others who struggle; we are emboldened to fight the stigma that often leads to dangerous silence; we find a measure of peace even during the worst moment that things will get better. We don’t know when, or how. Maybe not even in this life. But things will get better.

My Mission

Many people with mental illness are angry at God, at believers and at faith communities.  People within churches struggle to understand mental illness to connect what medical advances about brain chemistry with Truth revealed in Scripture.  I have lived in both worlds and wrestle daily with my dual identity as a Christian who has a serious mental illness.

My mission is to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness — fostering faith among those with disorders and diagnoses and promoting compassion within the faith community.  Sharing my spiritual memoir is the first step towards this mission.

Won’t you join me on this mission? Pray for those impacted by mental illness. Recruit them to share their stories within your sanctuaries. If you have a mental illness, set aside your assumptions and walk into a church one Sunday or ask to go with a Christian you know.

When we do these things, we reclaim our godly mission through the madness of the world.

Revealing Voices: the Faith-Based, Peer-Led Mental Health Podcast

Several podcasts touch on mental health. Others bring up topics of faith. None of these offer a faith-based, peer-led perspectives we need and believe others need to maintain wellness. Revealing Voices (RV) will dig deep and share honest stories of ways faith and mental healthcare can work together to promote healing. RV also offers humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Like the Apostle Paul on lithium or Sigmund Freund at a week-end revival.

Who We Are

We are two men with vibrant faith who live with bipolar disorder.

Eric earned a B.A. in History and an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Indiana University. His life took an unexpected turn in 2008 when a devastating flood led him to become a community case manager. After the experience, he wrote a book called Watershed: Service in the Wake of Disaster In preparation for the 10-year anniversary of flood recovery, Eric has been asked to co-lead the “Pleasant Grove Project” to turn a flood plain into fertiled land for building community. Eric supports mental health peer  recovery as a member of the Stability Network, and Vice-President of the local chapter of National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). He co-founded and now co-leads (with Tony) the weekly faith-based, peer led mental health and ministry group, “Faithful Friends”.

Tony received a B.A. in English & theology from Hanover College and a Master’s of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. He served 20 years in pastoral ministry, specializing in addiction and substance abuse recovery and ministry with those who have mental illness. He has published work in a number of periodicals, including Christianity Today (CT) Pastors, Presbyterians Today, Upper Room, These Days, devozine, and Stand Firm. His published spiritual memoir: Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission led him to become a keynote speaker at the first “Shattering Stigma with Stories,” a mental health and faith conference in Lake Oswego, OR. He is now at work on his second publication, sharing the story of his life in faith both inside and outside of psychiatric hospitals. His current work can be found on Delight in Disorder.
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Do You Hear What I Hear? (Tony)

This post marks the unveiling of a new mission. In March of 2018, a podcast will debut called, Revealing Voices: The Mental Health Podcast That Raises Unanswered Questions and Shares Unanswered Prayers. My co-host Eric Riddle and I share a firm faith in Christ and we both wrestle with a bipolar disorder.

Our show will include stories related to faith and mental illness, news and views in the media, podcast reviews, inspiring quotes and Scripture verses, as well as interviews with folks who have a mental illness, families and loved ones, church leaders, and mental health professionals.

Our goal in “Revealing Voices” is to offer hope and break down stigma. It is to reveal the voices of those often silenced. To give voice to revelations often hidden for fear of judgment. And to face honestly what is yet to be revealed to us.

Embarking on this mission has required much soul-searching and devotion on our part and we still wonder if we are up to the task. One thing is clear, we are not. But with God’s help and your prayers, Revealing Voices will move from our heads into a world where faith and mental illness have too long been divided at the expense of wounded souls like us.