Advocating for the Mentally Ill

May 2, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 16:16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. –Acts 16:16-18

I keep hearing the phrase, “We don’t do enough for the mentally ill in this country and state.” and then we do nothing more. In Oklahoma we are actually cutting services for the mentally ill. It is as if when we say, “Ain’t it a shame” the shame goes away. It does not. The Affordable Care Act included a provision that insurance companies must include mental health services and that has helped those who can afford insurance. Oklahoma, however, chose not to participate in the Medicaid expansion part of the Affordable Care Act and thus the most vulnerable mentally ill are still left out in the cold, literally in many instances as the mentally ill make up a large, disproportionate share of those who are homeless.

The scripture does not say why Paul was very annoyed. At first thought one might think, he just was tired of the slave-girl’s constant disruption of his work with her shouting. What she is saying, however, gives testimony to Paul’s true purpose. I suppose he could have been disturbed because her methods and her status in life were not what he would have chosen to represent his ministry. She was not the best spokesperson for his cause. But it is also possible, probable, I believe, that he saw she was being exploited by her oppressor and he finally decided to put an end to the exploitation at least that is what landed him in jail.

The mentally ill often are unable to advocate for themselves. They are dependent on the love of others to assure that they receive the care and treatment targeted at returning them to wholeness. We are all called to be such advocates along with Paul in the name of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, protect those who cannot protect themselves and open the doors of understanding to all of us who are called to speak on their behalf. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights