Although I sometimes wax nostalgic about bygone days when screens did not dominate my life and my attention was not as divided as often as it seems to be lately, the fact is I think a healthy social media community can be a great asset to persons suffering from mental illness. However, there are possible triggering pitfalls that can exacerbate paranoia, produce feelings of defensiveness, cause an over-internalizing of criticisms and lead to other damaging emotional and mental states.
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Above: The Revs. Aaron Maurice Saari and John Freeman being interviewed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in front of First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs.
Until I was 16, I thought that my uncle had died of cancer rather than suicide. There was always a dark joke in the family that we have a history of mental illness in our lineage. There is the distant cousin who lived in a tiger cage because, well, he thought he was a tiger. My beloved older brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 29. Four years later, he took his own life. My mother and I agree that my maternal grandmother struggled with depression most of her life. Her funeral contained quite a few loving statements about how difficult a person she could be.
The Rev. Aaron Maurice Saari is an Ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament through the United Church of Christ (UCC), currently serving a More Light Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Pastor Aaron has bipolar disorder and cycles rapidly; he also struggles with anxiety, particularly as it relates to phone calls. Aaron is on the adjunct faculty of Theology at Xavier University, and is earning his doctorate as an MLK Beloved Community Scholar at United Theological Seminary.