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It’s OK to Get Help
By Pastor Ismael Gama
A few years ago, my father-in-law committed suicide. That tragedy changed our family forever, and the resulting agony and anxiety caused tremendous emotional distress. The same week we learned of his passing, my wife and I also learned we would be having our third child. She attempted to put her emotions aside and avoid dealing with the symptoms, but after the baby was born, they hit with a vengeance. She started having anxiety attacks that turned into serious panic attacks. At times, she would feel helpless, hopeless, depressed, frustrated or out of control, and she often had terrible feelings of impending doom. On occasion, she would leave the house to escape the attacks. One morning while driving through an intersection, she had a panic attack that prevented her from stopping the car, and she had an accident. After several visits to the emergency room, she was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Thanks to medication, help from a psychiatrist, support from friends and family and continued counseling, my wife now lives a full and happy life.
Demonstrating God’s Care
During the difficult months of uncertainty prior to her diagnosis, we had friends who provided space and presence for us. I also had a very special professor at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., who listened to my struggles and prayed with me. His presence and support helped us get through those dark moments and realize that there were many other people struggling with similar issues.
Oftentimes our human tendency toward self-sufficiency or self-preservation leads us to minimize or ignore symptoms of depression and anxiety, but this is the last thing a person suffering from any mental disorder needs. I’m thankful for the professional help and spiritual support my wife and I received during our time of greatest need.
Today I lead a group of 28 staff chaplains, interns, student chaplains and volunteer community clergy at Adventist HealthCare’s hospitals in Maryland and New Jersey. Our mission is to demonstrate God’s care to those who are suffering and experiencing difficult times. Our role in the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s ministry of healing is to provide space, help, hope and a calm and nonjudgmental presence that allows patients and families to share their stories and receive professional pastoral care.
If you or someone you know is suffering, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help and spiritual care today.
Pastor Ismael Gama, MA, MBA, serves as associate vice president for Mission Integration & Spiritual Care at Adventist HealthCare, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md.
More articles on this topic:
My Journey Out of Darkness: Why I Walked for Suicide Prevention
8 Tips for Survivors of Suicide Loss