Presentation to Saint Peters Church in Moutain Lakes, January 29, 2012

My name is Lou Schwarcz and I am the President and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Morris County. This agency has served the Morris County community since 1953, and we are very grateful for your hospitality in hosting us this Sunday morning.

 

Our mission is to help people in Morris County when they are most emotionally and mentally injured. We are advocates for the homeless, the destitute, and the downtrodden, particularly people who have lost their mental health and well being.

 

In talking about the people we serve, I want to give some philosophical background, in recognition that we are in church, a place where spirituality is our driving force.

All of us in life carry a weight on our shoulders. For most of us the weight we carry is the responsibilities of our lives: our jobs, our marriages, our children, our friends, and all of our daily tasks and errands that allow us to live in the communities of our choosing.

 

In carrying the weight of our lives, we have a self that lifts this weight, and that self is made up of the mental apparatus by which we operate and navigate our surroundings.

 

In normal circumstances, our self is strong enough to endure the weight we carry, and to balance the weight as we move through our lives.

However, in some people the weight of the world is too severe. Their shoulders cannot carry it, their knees buckle, and the weight of their lives crashes down, capsizing on them and the people in their close vicinity.

 

When the weight of the world is too much for people to bear, and the self collapses, the Mental Health Association of Morris County is there to help people pick up the pieces.

 

So what does it look like when the self collapses?

 

It is a man walking down the street responding to his inner voices as if it were the voice of another.

 

It is a homeless woman seeking comfort in a warm diner, a heated train station lobby, or leaning behind a dumpster where she cannot be seen.

 

It is a young man pacifying his inner turmoil through alcohol or drugs, trying to drive away his demons through the escape of brain chemical alteration.

 

It is a young woman who uses food to cope with her pain, through overeating or under-eating, unable to contain her obsession as it provides temporary but hurtful relief.

 

It is a man who attempts to take his life, in a death wish borne of despair.

 

It is a man languishing in an institution, praying to see daylight, looking for his lost identity as if looking for shelter from a deadly storm.

 

It is a young woman with children living in a shelter, holding her children tightly, but unable to protect them from poverty and shame.

 

The Mental Health Association of Morris County is here to help people rebuild their lives, one moment at a time.

 

We provide homeless outreach services for the street homeless and case management services to help people live outside of institutions, shelters and jails.

 

We provide support groups to allow people to feel less alone in their mental struggles, as well as family support for those whose loved ones have been afflicted.

 

We hire people with mental illness to be mental health professionals, so they can reach out to other mentally ill people that are at earlier points in their recovery.

 

We advocate for better services and programs at the public policy level.

 

Finally, we provide socialization to address isolation. This often consists simply of a warm smile, a warm meal, or casual and kind conversation.

 

So come to our tables here in this church, be part of the work we do, help us to achieve our mission, and most of all, be part of the solution to helping people in Morris County to quietly and hopefully rebuild their lives.