Let’s fast forward to the next time you call in sick to work.  Unless you are some kind of office fiend the response from your workplace is likely to be sort of sanguine:  “Okay, just rest and get well.”

But sometimes you do not tell the exact reason for your feeling sick.  I know that, because we all have mentally sick days just as we all have physically sick days.  And either being physically or mentally sick can equally incapacitate us from being able to put in an acceptable work day.

But I am sure that you will not say, “I just feel it is better if I don’t go to work today.  Because I am not sure I am safe with the mental illness I am feeling now.  And I don’t want to just go out and punch the first person who disagrees with me.”

You don’t have to take just my word for it, but as a society, we are growing rapidly more mentally ill every decade, according to the statistics of the National Center for Health Statistics.  We certainly already agree that there is so much pain in mental illness that it lends itself to every level of moaning.  In mental illness, the highest pitch of moaning is the suicide attempt and the suicide.  The National Center for Health Statistics reports that by measurement of our American suicide rate, which rose 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, our mental illness has climbed nearly 25 percent in only 15 years.

Why is our mental illness increasing so much?

Indeed, the rising mental illness in the country is impacting every aspect of our lives now, whether we walking our streets, riding on our roads, going to school or going to our work place.

This grim picture is very different from the relatively gleeful America I grew up with.  For example,   I remember in the  1960’s that our American TV comedy shows were so funny that if I were to watch just two or three of them in an evening I would go to bed thinking of my day as a success.  I am talking about a specific kind of comedy, when the adults are all acting like kids, like in “Get Smart,”   “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” McHale’s Navy,” “The Adams Family,” “Gilligan’s Island,” – indeed, is there anything more hilarious than adults acting like children as they all did in these shows?

Nearly every comedy was like that I those days, when we were according to our national statistics not nearly as mentally ill as we are now.  But those were the days when we were still taking the psychoanalytic writings or Sigmund Freud seriously, especially his belief that all neurosis had a sexual content.  And we were a little more careful about sexual content in those days, because Freud had written about its powerful potential to make us neurotic.

But today I don’t think there is hardly any culture that does not have sexual content, and look at what’s happening to our brains now.

There was another TV show that lasted until 1971 that was anything but a comedy – it was Dragnet with Jack Webb.  What authenticated Dragnet for me was its closing pledge that every show was taken from an actual crime that took place in the city of Los Angeles.  But as I recall, practically every crime was straight-forward, usually resulting from straight-forward greed.  There were no shows that I recall that resulted from mental illness.  But surely if we were to rework Dragnet in to our TV schedules today, if we wanted to again match the actual crimes that are taking place in the City of Los Angeles, practically half the crimes would have to be tied to some kind of mental derangement, so often caused by drugs.

I am also sorry to say that what was once a great resource for converting the mentally ill into a more stable people – the church – has also lost what was once its ancient intensity in bringing the mentally ill back into a social fold.  We tend to forget that among the early most salient Christians were Mary of the many devils and Legion of the many devils. There was also the Saul turning into Paul with the perennial thorn tormenting his side and the anxiety-riddled Simon turning into Peter.  By any measure, the typical first Christians were far from what we call in today’s parlance first-draft picks. The reality is extensively documented in most of Paul’s letters, perhaps most explicitly from his letter to the Romans to his letter to the Galatians.

But we sometimes forget that the early Christian church served (among other ways) as a healing hospital for what in the first words of the Sermon on the Mount was the poor in spirit – that is, for the emotionally weak.  From the sermon of the mount, we can conclude that the poor in spirit even served as the grass-roots for the early great build-up of the church.

And yet just from popular modern church literature, you can see that today churches are feeling less secure about the emotionally unstable than did the ancient churches.  There is more of a feeling now that the prize investigator of the church is something more like a first-draft pick, destined to strengthen the church like first draft picks bolster a pro sports team.

But if we really want to create a culture that is reducing our mentally ill population, we might want to look at the healing record of the emotionally challenged in our ancient churches.  The key quality was always in the ancient records a balm of peace, which can be given in many different expressions – in a sermon, in a letter, in art and literature, in music and many other ways.  It is the peace that calms the turbulence in a person.  So if you want to fight the battle today against all the mental illness that is attacking our society, think of how you can bring those things to the table that promote peaceful thoughts in your immediate community of people. 

I mean all kinds of people.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.