Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

Helpful Tips When Dealing With No Support System

What do you when you have no positive and encouraging support your family and/or friends?


Research shows that when those of us with mental health challenges have a good support system of family and friends, we actually do better than those who do not have a support system. It only makes sense. After all, as it is with any challenges in life, we all do better with the support of family and friends. The support of my wife, family, and close friends was key in encouraging me and helping me to learning to live well in spite of having a bipolar disorder.

So, what do you when you have no positive and encouraging support your family and/or friends?

  1. Choose to work through your hurt from the lack of support from your family and/or friends. You can’t change people. Sometimes we have to just accept the fact that family and friends do not understand nor are they helpful; and you resenting it won’t change them and will only end up holding you back.
  1. Choose to find and establish the type of encouraging positive support system that you need. How?

a. Look for a positive, helpful, principled mental health recovery peer support group, in person or online. A support group is a great place to find friends who can be positive and supportive to whom you can be accountable on a regular basis. (For example, Fresh Hopenow has support group meetings online so no matter where you live you can find a positive and encouraging mental health support group.)

b. Finding a local peer support specialist is also another possibility for a positive support system.

c.Other places to find good friends are at church, a health club, the gym, and with special interests groups.

Remember, you and I become like the five people we spend the most time with; therefore choose friends carefully.

In spite of having a great support group of spouse, family, and friends, I’ve also had an accountability group of peers who have held me accountable for my mental health recovery and doing the things that are best for me and for my family.   This accountability group has been key in my recovery support system. They have had access to my doctor and my wife. My wife and doctor have also had access to them and to one another. I call it my “circle of accountability” which hems me in and keeps me honest.

While it’s not always been comfortable; my accountability group has empowered me to live well in the long run. Let’s be honest, too often you and I can easily tell the doctor one thing and our spouse or friends something else; only telling people what we want them to know. And while it took a lot of trust initially in the individuals who have made up my accountability group, it has served me very well.

From my perspective, it imperative for you and me to have a positive and encouraging support system and accountability. And as disappointing and hurtful as it is to have a lack of support from friends and/or family members, you can’t let that keep you from finding the support system you need. Yes, it will take effort to do so. But the effort will pay off.

What about you? Do you have the support of family and friends? If not, have you been able to establish a support system for yourself? If so, where? How?

Check out Brad’s weekly podcast:

Check out Fresh Hope’s online meetings:


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


We Are Not All the Same: How Bipolar Disorder Varies from Person to Person

We Are Not All the Same: How Bipolar Disorder Varies from Person to Person

It’s essential to recognize living with bipolar disorder is a different experience for every person, with complexities such as co-occurring disorders.

Bipolar disorder differs from person to person.  The same medicines do not work for all of us, nor do we all even have the same type of bipolar.  The issues of mental health recovery are very complex.  So, the “things” that have worked for me might not work for you. This is why we need one another.  Corporately, we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individuals living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.

When you and I connect with one another, we empower each other to live well in spite of any possible daily battles with our disorder.  Individually, no one of us has all the answers.  But, together we have solutions for one another. Corporately we have answers for one another as we encourage each other and share what “works” for us as individuals in living well in spite of our bipolar disorder.

It always concerns me when everyone is talking about mental illness/health and over-generalizing it, simplifying it to the point where everyone is lumped together.

By doing this, the public is not even beginning to understand the complexities and challenges for each individual dealing with their particular life’s situation and experiences, plus having a mental illness.

Some of us have only one diagnosis; bipolar disorder.  Others of us have the complexity of co-occurring disorders which some now are calling “complex” instead of co-occurring.  Just bipolar disorder in and of itself is enough to make life very complex at times. But, add on top of that a borderline personality disorder, and now it’s even more complicated.  As I watch friends of mine who have a personality disorder, lots of child trauma and bipolar disorder, I have come to know that their struggle for wellness is compounded many times over as they strive to live well in spite of several mental health issues.

Yet, I believe there are some general “living-well” principles that are true for most, if not all, of us. I’d like to share a few of them.  This list is not exhaustive, but some of the “principles” that I believe may be universal to us all:

  1. In order to achieve some level of wellness in our lives, you and I must be disciplined to do those things that move us toward wellness and keep us well. This is a choice.  As much as I hate to be disciplined, I choose to discipline myself daily to live well in spite of bipolar disorder.
  1. To live well, you and I need other people in our lives.  You and I are made for community.  Isolating will not help any of us to live well. If you have alienated all of the people in your life and are alone, then I strongly encourage you to seek out a certified peer support specialist and/or a peer-led mental health support group and/or group therapy led by a professional therapist. You need other people.
  1. To live well, you and I must be committed to some of the hardest work we will ever do in our lives. Living well in spite of bipolar plus any other issues you might face is But, it’s worth it.  It’s a difficult job that sometimes must be done moment by moment, day by day.
  2. To live well, you and I must have hope for our future, or we will give up. Hopelessness comes about when someone believes they have no future.  Choosing to believe that your life has purpose and meaning is key to overcoming hopelessness.  If you are a person of faith, then this is where your conviction becomes key.  Faith gives hope because it says that life, each life, has meaning and purpose.  Person of faith or not, your life is essential.  Your life has meaning. Out of the pain and hurt of your life, you have the power to empower others by just telling your story.  Telling your story to others who are also on this journey gives your life purpose.  That’s a future. And that gives hope.  Never give up. Each of us needs you. You hold some answers for some of us in our journey towards wellness.
  3. To live well, you and I have to choose to look for the golden nuggets in the “poo-piles” of life (Of course, there’s another way to spell “poo” but, I am going to stay with “poo”). There’s a lot of “poo” in life. No one gets through life without pain and brokenness to varying degrees. When you and I let go of our expectations of life, it allows us to find the “gold nuggets,” the silver linings, even in the most difficult of times. Part of doing this means that you and I must never lose our sense of humor about how goofy life and others can be!

So, I offer these five principles to wellness that I believe are some of the foundational principles of a life of wellness.  They are simple.  But, so very important and challenging to do at times.  I’d love to hear your input regarding them. And I would also like to hear from you about those things you have done and continue doing that help you live well in spite of having bipolar disorder.  It’s easy to do, just send in what you do or have done and we will add to the list!

In the meantime, keep looking for those golden nuggets!


Pastoring and Suicidal: Insights from a Pastor Who Has Been There

Pastoring and Suicidal: Insights from a Pastor Who Has Been There

The loss of yet another pastor to suicide this week was not a surprise to me.  Why? Because handling the challenges of modern-day ministry and the challenges of having a mental health issue can become deadly. I know all too well. Since 1995, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have spent every single day delicately balancing the demands of pastoral ministry, family life, and managing my bipolar disorder.

I’ve been an ordained pastor since 1985. And ministry is more demanding today than ever. The culture, the expectations, and the speed of life have changed greatly since I started over 30 years ago. Life is more stressful today for everyone, not just the clergy. However, that growing amount of stress has created even more pressure within the demands of pastoral ministry. Ministry is difficult and challenging. So when you add a mental health challenge on top of it, one must take double- and triple-care to manage the mental health challenge.

Just a few of my observations:

  • In pastoral ministry, it seems to me that at least 85% (maybe more) of the situations I deal with are negative. And too often there is not ample time to become refreshed and replenished before the next one ‘hits’.  Research by Duke University shows that demands put pastors at far greater risk for depression than people in other occupations.  LifeWay research gives us insight as to some of the reasons pastors struggle with depression.  Pastoral Leadership is a tough job, not as difficult as being a stay at home Mom, but it is ranked by Forbes as being one of the 9 most difficult leadership jobs in America.
  • People are not as respectful to pastors as they used to be. The sheep seem to be more irritated with life, more aggressive, and willing to “bite” at their shepherd. And those things that people say about you hurt.
  • Consumerism runs rampant in the Christian church. Instead of coming alongside their pastor in ministry, many folks are there to ‘receive’ from the pastor. And when what they ‘get’ from the pastor doesn’t meet with their expectations, they begin to peck away at what he or she is doing wrong. So, there’s frequently extremely high expectations and low tolerance. Pastors suffer many heart-wounds that are inflicted by sheep that they have loved and cared for over the years. 
  • Pastors are first-line responders to the crisis situations of their people’s lives. Thus, they have a lot of second-hand trauma. It makes a significant impact on the mental health of every pastor, even if he or she does not have a mental health diagnosis. The effects of second-hand trauma are real.
  • Pastors tend to feel isolated and alone. And so we find it hard to talk openly about our deepest and darkest issues. Sometimes it seems even to those of us who are pastors that we shouldn’t be struggling as we are to be ‘examples’ of faith. Shame keeps us shackled and tongue-tied when it comes to sharing our deepest struggles. There is always that fear that we could lose our job if word got out. Churches are not always the safest places to find grace. As pastors, we encourage people to be authentic, transparent, and confess failures and struggles. Yet, we find that to be one of the hardest things to do personally.
  • Knowing how to process pain and suffering is foreign to us in today’s culture. So we end up not processing the pain or suffering that comes with life. The interesting thing about emotional pain is that if you don’t deal with it, it will deal with you. And pastors struggle just like everyone else. We live in a culture, even within the church culture, where people do not know what to do when others are struggling and in pain. Too often we sugarcoat it with toxic positivity or spiritualize it. It’s no wonder then that people simply don’t talk openly about a struggle, for fear of being seen as complaining or not having enough faith.
  • Oftentimes those of us in the helping professions are people-pleasers, which makes ministry fraught with all kinds of dangers. Also, many of us in these professions suffer from low self-esteem and take everything personally – which then compounds depression and anxiety even more.  This issue adds even additional stress to an already stressful profession.
  • And of course, there is the issue of spiritual warfare that is always at play also. The enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there certainly are many joys in the ministry and while the church has always had flaws, I love the church and God’s people.  But, let’s be honest, some of God’s people require more grace than others!  And when you are dealing with a mental health challenge, it is even more complex and more of a challenge to deal with all of the conflict issues that arise in an imperfect church, which is all churches.

It’s important to understand that things such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder – as well as other mental health disorders – are episodic. This means that while I will have bipolar disorder the rest of my life if I’m not experiencing an actual depressive or manic episode, I’m living basically symptom-free like anyone else would be experiencing life. For example, I’ve not had any kind of major episode of depression or mania for the past 17 years. But I have to stay on top of managing the disorder daily, which means that someone with a mental health disorder can serve as a pastor or hold other jobs and manage their disease without it ever becoming an issue.

However, if the pastor is having a depressive episode, ongoing anxiety attacks, or a manic episode for whatever reason, then it becomes exceptionally difficult to navigate daily life, much less ministry. In other words, if their mental health challenge is affecting their ability to cope with the demands of their life, then they must take care of themselves just as they would if as if they needed to have open-heart surgery. It’s no different than if someone were dealing with any other serious physical illness. It is during times like this that one must focus on getting well before returning to work.

Here are a few things that I encourage my fellow pastors who might be struggling with any type of mental health issue – either secretly or publicly – and especially if you have suicidal ideations:

  • Talk to someone immediately, don’t listen to your brain’s thinking, tell someone before it is too late. Don’t wait. Don’t even finish reading this blog. Do it now. You don’t need to handle this on your own, nor can you handle on your own. You need someone to listen who knows how to help you. Don’t play that game where you tell yourself, “You can do this”.  See, while you are listening to that little voice in your head that says, “You’ve got this.” But things get worse, and you don’t have it. And before you know it, you find yourself being swallowed up by hopelessness. By that point, you can barely stand up against it. STOP participating with the lies of the depressive state of your brain!

If you wait too long to talk to someone, you come to a point where the darkness of depression tells you not to speak – and before you know it your brain succumbs to the illness of depression. You then end up at a point where you can’t fight it any longer. So, STOP playing the game. Tell someone that you AREN’T OK! Tell it before you can’t fight against the lies of the depression.

  • Know this: Your struggle is not because you are weak emotionally or spiritually. That’s nothing more than stigma telling you that. Everyone struggles. And we aren’t meant to struggle alone. You know that. You’ve taught it in your preaching and teaching. You know that we were created for relationship. You are weak when you think you are strong enough to handle this yourself. So, don’t handle it alone.
  • This struggle is real. It is physiological. If you don’t tell someone and keep thinking you can handle this, the brain will sooner or later cause you to be out of your mind. Your brain is just another organ in your body. Your mind is what your brain does. And when your brain is sick it’s hard to be in your right mind. And in this case, the brain is the only organ in your body that gets to determine whether or not you talk about this with someone else. Your brain can get sick enough that it will lie to you telling you that you need to take your life to get out of the pain. Your brain will become sick enough to make you think that your loved ones would be better without you. DON’T believe the lies of your sick brain. It’s an easy slippery slope to suicide, and the evidence of that slippery slope is when you think that you can handle this struggle on your own. DO something now before it is too late.
  • Please know that depression will make you feel very guilty and shameful. Depression will tell you that you shouldn’t burden the people around you anymore. Depression will tell you that things will never get better. And if you aren’t telling anyone, then in one quick very dark moment, depression can pull you down into the cesspool of hopelessness and an abyss of darkness that you have never known.
  • Depression will make you feel like you should be ashamed of yourself for having suicidal ideations or that you should be ashamed of yourself for not trusting the Lord. After all, you’re a pastor. Pastors should not struggle with these things, which is a bunch of B.S.! Those of the lies of depression.
  • If the fear of having to be hospitalized is what is keeping you from actually telling someone that you are suicidal, that is your own stigma that is within you. Override it for the sake of your spouse, children, friends, and your flock.  If you were having a heart attack you would go to the E.R., right? Well, this is NO different than that!

Twice in my life, I have been suicidal.  The first time I did not go to the hospital.  Someone was around me nearly 24/7.  I was not left by myself.  I ended up in a curled up fetal position on the floor of our bedroom closet, it felt like a safe place.  The emotional pain and anxiety were worse than any pain I’ve ever had to this point in my life.  The second time I was suicidal I could literally feel the dark pit of despair and hopelessness engulfing me.  I intuitively knew that there was very little of my ability to fit it left.  I was clinging to the very edge of the deep hole with a few of my fingernails.  Making the call to the doctor was more than I could think of and but, I knew I had to tell someone, or I probably was not going to be able to fight the hopelessness and despair.  The disease was eating my ability to hold onto life.   It felt much like I would imagine it might feel to die of any disease.  I ended up in the hospital.  Locked in the hospital.  No shoe strings, no electrical cords and no razor.  But it saved my life no differently than if I had suffered a major heart attack that day.

For those of you who don’t understand how one can get to that point of despair, thank the Lord you don’t understand.  Believe it or not, it is quite possible to live at the intersection of hope and hopelessness at the same time.  Hopelessness is a street of despair that is littered with lies and pain that runs horizontally.  It is of this world.  It’s physical, it really is all in the head, because of a diseased brain.  Real hope, no wishful thinking hope, that is a Romans 8:28 hope, is a street that is vertical.  It is the truth.  It isn’t always felt in the natural.  But, it is rock solid.   And you can be living in that intersection and have the real hope but the hopelessness takes over in the natural because of a diseased brain.

In the end, someone who dies by suicide does not choose it, so, they are not “committing” it.  I believe it would be more accurate to say that someone dies from a mental illness.  The mental illness takes them.  Just like when people die from cancer.  And pastor, you don’t need to die that death.  Get help.

I’m a pastor who has bipolar. I will die having bipolar short of the Lord’s miraculously healing me.  (And like Paul experienced, the Lord has not removed that thorn up to this point.) But I refuse to die from bipolar.  If you are struggling with suicidal ideation or are suicidal, choose to live before the disease takes over.


Pastor if you are struggling with a mental illness or mental health challenge, please consider attending our online Fresh Hope group meeting on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. central time zone. It is a safe place to not be OK.  If that time slot does not work for you, please email Nicole@FreshHope.usand we will start an online Fresh Hope support group for clergy only.




Allow Yourself to Grieve by Rick Qualls

Allow Yourself to Grieve by Rick Qualls


Grieving is part of depression. With depression come loss. Depression may have changed your feelings so that even positive things are seen negatively.

You may not “be yourself”.  Your energy levels are lower, you socialize less, you may think less clearly, medicines often have unwanted side effects.

You may feel as though you are not the same person as before depression. These losses are real.

Foggy headed, I remember one incident while severely depressed, I became confused driving familiar roads. It was startling and frightening. Afterwards I grieved over being confused.

I was angry, shocked about this symptom of my depression. Embarrassed I wondered what was happening to me. I wondered if this would be a permanent.

I grieved over “not being me.”

What is the answer to the questions?  First, remember there are treatments that can lift the fog of depression.  There are many treatments with new ones being pioneered every day. Don’t give in to grief.

Two, this depression will pass.

Three, with the help of your doctors and therapists look at your depression management program and see if changes are needed.

One of the first questions we ask in the middle of these “losses” is:  Why?  Why me, God?

Is it totally random?  Is it because of personal circumstances?  Is it the result of dysfunctional cognitive functioning?  Is is genetic?  Chemical?

We may never know.  What I have found helpful is to begin asking, “How” instead of “Why”.  Since I am depressed how will I deal with it.  If I can’t control having the disease, how can I manage it?

When you are grieving don’t beat yourself up.  Grief requires emotional and physical rest.  Grief is a process different for everyone. Take care of your physical needs, eat well, exercise and spend time with positive people.

One of the things that helps process grief is to repeat your story. In the repetition the mind and heart process feelings.

Allow yourself to grieve.

With the best of your ability turn to God as your refuge.

Psalm 46:1-2  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Fresh Hope Ministry Update

Fresh Hope Ministry Update

There’s a lot of things happening within Fresh Hope’s International Ministry! So, we thought in this blog post we would give you an update of all that is happening!

Fresh Hope Regional Ambassadors

We are excited to announce that we now have Regional Ambassadors! These ambassadors will serve as our point of connection within regions of the western hemisphere. They will be connecting with the more than 150 facilitators currently leading groups in the United States and Central America. The ambassadors will also help new groups starting in their regions and assist existing groups.

USA Northwest Region: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming

Kyla Warner,


Rusty Ford,

USA Southwest Region: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah

Dale and Martha Rose

Pastors Dale and Martha Rose,


USA Central Midwest Region: Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota

Jamei and Allen Meyer 2

Allen and Jamie Meyer,


USA Upper Midwest Region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin 

Barb and Mike Gutho

Barb and Mike Gutho,

Jon Hanchett

Jon Hanchett,


USA Northeast Region: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia

Sandy Thomas          charles-thomas-3.jpg

Sandy and Charles Thomas,


USA Southern Region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia 

John Hereford

Pastor John Hereford, 



Christian Coleman-Jones,


El Salvador


Samanta Karaa,


Fresh Hope for Teen Groups

FreshHope_Teens_CMYKWe now have three Fresh Hope for Teens groups:  Washington state, Houston, TX, and in Canada! Our teen groups work a little differently than a group for adults. Two groups actually meet at the same time. One is for the teens and their friends who are their supporters, and the other is for the parents. The facilitators are for both groups, but they switch back and forth. So there are at least four facilitators, two in each group. And then they flip back and forth however they determine is most beneficial.  Our teen groups have modified teen-tenets, but still with the same idea that it’s possible to live well in spite of a mental health challenge.

We’d love to help you start a local Fresh Hope for Teens group!


 Fresh Hope for Living Free

FreshHope_LivingFree_FINAL_RGBOur Living Free initiative is in the writing and editing phase, and we hope to have it ready for publication by the end of this year and available for others to use.  This program has been in development during a three-year pilot program as Pastor Brad works in the Douglas County jail in Omaha, NE. He developed a short-term 17-week short-term intervention group curriculum which will be available for jails and prisons to use.

The curriculum is designed for men and women who are incarcerated, but also provides an ongoing support group for them when they have been released from jail or prison.  But the curriculum will also work well for those who are not incarcerated or have never been incarcerated, but who want to work on emotional, spiritual, addiction, and mental health issues.

This curriculum and ongoing support group would be a great program for local churches who desire to have a presence in their local jail or prison: teaching the curriculum within the facility, and providing the ongoing support group at their church for those who have been released from being incarcerated.  Local jail and prison chaplains will certainly be able to offer the curriculum in their facilitators even without the help of a local church.


 A Fresh Hope Book for Loved Ones

Pastor Brad and Donna have finished authoring the book for loved ones, and it’s now in the editing phase. The title of the book is Holding to Hope, Staying Sane While Loving Someone with a Mental Illness.  The book takes loved ones through the Fresh Hope tenets and is written in such a way that loved ones could easily use it as a study guide in a group or individuals may use it themselves.

Besides covering the tenets of Fresh Hope, there are chapters on many additional questions and topics. These include, “What do you do when children are involved: What do you tell? What do you not tell?”, “How do you trust after trust has been broken?”, “What do you do when your loved one is suicidal?”, and “How do you help, but not enable, your loved one?”

We hope the book will be released by the end of this year or early 2020. It would be great if you could order it as a Christmas present!


Fresh Hope Spanish Resources

Our Fresh Hope materials are now being translated into Spanish, thanks to both Samanta from El Salvador and Christian from Mexico!  Plus, we now offer Spanish-speaking Fresh Hope groups both online and locally in El Salvador and Mexico City, Mexico.  This literally will allow us to offer Fresh Hope to even millions of more Spanish-speaking people.


Hope Coach Training

Hope Coaches are individuals who are trained and certified to serve in local churches and other ministries.  They are equipped with exceptional listening skills, practical ways of helping others process pain, and the ability to speak hope into situations without giving spiritual platitudes or toxic positivity.  We are hoping to introduce our Hope Coach training and certification in 2020.

Hope Coaches will be trained to ask the right questions to help people express their pain and process it, but also then to speak hope into those situations. And it’s not just for mental health coaching. It could be for anything. Fresh Hope is about how to live well, in spite of any difficult challenge in life, where having hope is absolutely key to getting through it.


Trauma Healing Groups Now Offered

Fresh Hope now has numerous Trauma Healing facilitators who have begun to leadTrauma Healing Logo Trauma Healing groups nationwide.  Trauma plays a significant role for those who have mental health challenges.  Sometimes it is a traumatic event in and of itself that brings about a mental illness.  Trauma Healing groups are part of the Trauma Healing Institute of the American Bible Society.  If you are interested in hosting a Trauma Healing group at your church or ministry please email


Surviving Together for Those Who Have Lost Their Loved Ones to Suicide

survive-together-logoFresh Hope has started its’ first Fresh Hope group for those who have lost their loved ones to suicide.  It’s called Surviving Together (  We’ve just started this as a pilot group.  If your church and/or ministry is interested in potentially starting a Surviving Together group, email


Start a Fresh Hope Group at Your Church

We’d love to encourage you to start a Fresh Hope for Mental Health group that meets at your church or in a close-by ministry or hospital.  We do require that all of our groups be sponsored by a ministry or an entity such as a church, for instance, and that they’re always held in public places. We’ll train and certify the facilitators, and it’s a pretty easy process in many regards. It doesn’t cost much, and we’ll even waive the cost for you if you can’t afford it.  You can begin the process by contacting  Also contact Nicole if you would like information about anything else that we’ve talked about in this post.


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


How to Support Our Children with Depression

How to Support Our Children with Depression

Every child experiences “the blues” every once in a while, but when the sadness becomes relentless, it could manifest into depression. Depression can affect a child’s personal life, school work, and social or family life. Children, versus adults, can develop depression based on additional factors like peer pressure and changing hormone levels. It’s important to be alert and supportive of our children in order to help them.


The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recognizes the following symptoms as warning signs of depression in children:

  • Feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • A decrease in interest in activities once found enjoyable
  • Decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Talk of suicide
  • Poor school performance

 If you recognize any of these symptoms in your child there are ways you can help:


After an initial diagnosis of depression, the best thing you can do is become informed, for you and your child. Jumo Health, a digital health resource for families, offers a depression discussion guide which provides questions to help foster conversation with a doctor after a diagnosis.

Moreover, there are productive ways to create a dialogue between you and your child. Start by letting your child know why you care about how they are feeling. Ask your child about their feelings, but don’t expect them to completely understand or have all the answers. Follow up with connections and examples of some of your own feelings so that they feel relatable. It’s important for children to know that they are not alone.

 If you want to help your child even further, we previously suggested the “Three L’s”:

  • Logging thoughts in a journal
  • Laughter
  • Long walks

Have your child interpret thoughts through writing. They can use a journal to keep track of moods, visualize patterns, and even write down inspirational thoughts. Journaling is a great way for your child to get their thoughts down on paper to clarify and reflect on their feelings.

Better yet, help your child combat sadness with its opposite: laughter. Activities such as watching a funny movie or show can use humor to play an important role in depression management.

Lastly, utilize the curative effects of exercise. Physical activity has healing benefits that release endorphins in order to relieve stress.

Connect with God

It’s important to remind your child that if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

25 Inspirational and Insightful Quotes for Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis

25 Inspirational and Insightful Quotes for Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis

One of my favorite things to do is to collect inspirational sayings that resonate with me. I find short inspirational quotes to be simple ways to remember important truths in learning and remembering how to live well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis.

So, I thought I would share with you some new quotes that I have found to be helpful:

  • “To get somewhere new, you must first decide that you are tired of being where you are.” Unknown
  • “You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with his or her actions.” Unknown
  • “A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret.” Unknown
  • Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys. Rita Schiano
  • “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” J.K. Rowling
  • “Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to in their lives.” Unknown
  • “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Unknown
  • “What defines is not our past. Rather, how well we rise after falling.” Unknown
  • “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change: I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Unknown
  • “Two things prevent us from happiness; living in the past and observing others.” Unknown
  • “Your past does not determine who you are. Your past prepares you for who you are to become.” Unknown
  • “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Unknown
  • “Never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter.” Unknown
  • “Failure isn’t final unless you quit.” Unknown
  • “Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to or expected it to, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you ever imagined.” Unknown
  • “Let’s stop believing that our differences make us superior or inferior to one another.” Unknown
  • “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” Unknown
  • “I refuse to please others at the expense of my emotional well-being. Even if it means saying no to people who are used to hearing yes.”
  • “Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” C.S. Lewis
  • “You don’t protect your heart by acting like you don’t have one.” Unknown
  • “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Winston Churchill
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
  • “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
  • “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.” Unknown
  • “No one can go back and make a brand new start. However, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Unknown

Do any of these quotes speak to you? If so, why? Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes that have been helpful to you in learning how to live well in spite of a mental health diagnosis?

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Solving America’s Mass Violence: Why Better Gun Control and More Psychiatric Treatment Aren’t the Answer

Solving America’s Mass Violence: Why Better Gun Control and More Psychiatric Treatment Aren’t the Answer

A knee-jerk reaction to the hot button issues of gun control and mental healthcare reform is to presume reformation of gun control laws and mental healthcare would be solutions to the crisis of mass violence. Could better gun control laws enacted, and more psych hospital funding be the solution to our epidemic of mass shootings? These are two different questions, and at the heart of them, the same answer, but for different reasons.

Gun Control is Not the Answer

Preventing access to guns is always going to be a challenge. Throughout history, plenty of criminals who weren’t qualified to handle a weapon found them. There are already laws in place to make it very hard or at most, illegal, for those with a history of violence to purchase a gun. Making it harder for people who have mental illness to carry a weapon isn’t necessarily helpful. Plenty of people have a mental health diagnosis and are well enough to handle a gun. If they’re medicated and stabilized, there is generally no need to be concerned. 

Since gun violence is so prevalent in America, compared to other nations, it may be that because guns are more widely owned that we have more violence in the US as a result. Will passing and enforcing more laws decrease the likelihood of guns being used for mass shootings? The guns are already out there, folks. The amount of guns owned in private residences is not going to decrease. The ability to access guns will stay the same.

One Answer: A National Call to Revival

The problem we have here is not a matter of “bad people” getting ahold of guns. Nor is it mental illness. Mental illness is not the only factor in most cases of abuse of firearms. The issue is the heart of the person who chooses to commit such an act of terrorism. The heart of the matter, is the heart. 

So what does this mean for America? Unless the American Christian church (people called by God), turn from their wicked ways and repent (2 Chronicles 7:14), and pray to God for healing, our nation will continue to suffer tragedy after tragedy. The outcome of a society is dependent upon its presence of Christians.

The key is the revival of our souls in the American church, to embrace the gospel fully, to preach and teach and live it out. Without talk of Christ’s message, who will hear? (Romans 10:17) Without hearing who will be changed? It is up to me to tell my neighbor. Open my mouth and share the good news, for which my Savior died to bring me. Thereafter, we aren’t made good by our obedience, we are made good by Christ’s death that gave us His righteousness and a new heart of flesh. It is His Holy Spirit and heart of purity that changes ours, and that creates a new desire in us – for goodness and peace. It turns our sinful, evil, immoral and corrupt nature into the complete opposite. That’s the power of the gospel. That’s the result of transformative salvation.

Better Psych Hospital Funding is Not the Answer

Psychiatric units and behavioral hospitals are not the answer to the national epidemic of moral corruption and decay. Mental illness is not a moral fault or shortcoming. Mental illness is a sickness of the organ of the brain, and like any other organ requires medical treatment. 

Mass shootings are not a thing of psychological dissonance or mental illness. In most cases, mass shootings are a decision and plan acted upon by a person who may struggle with mental illness, but their heart is the culprit. Their mind and sense of personhood may be warped and their conscience numbed, but that is not the same as brain chemistry of mood disorders. 

Evil Character is Not Mood Disorder

Mental illness medication cannot change a person’s heart, will, or intentions and motives. Medication is there to help slow down the brain’s processes to be able to use more sense and reclaim more stability of regulating moods and emotions that can influence them to behave irrationally or impulsively. You may wonder what the difference is between someone being rash in a mass shooting, and someone being impulsive in mental illness. The difference is the heart. 

If I am mentally ill, I will have a harder time controlling impulses and reactions to things that trigger my behavior, whether good or bad. When the illness is pervasive, it’s harder to distinguish between evil thoughts and motives and poorly managed moods. Having a mental illness is not an excuse for poor choices. It is an explanation at times, but not an excuse. The illness may be helping my sinful nature to quicken the behaviors I want to carry out from the evil intentions of my heart, but it is not the reason I carry out the evil desires. One carries out evil desires and make that an evil act due to the immorality in his heart, not the mental illness in his brain. 

Another Answer: Put the Fear of God in Them

Aside from individual inner-person soul transformation, the most practical approach to treating those with the evil desires to kill and destroy may partly have a mental illness component. However, as with morality and mankind, justice should be enforced to deter those who have it in their hearts to carry out mass violence. For starters, governing entities should enact the death penalty, and concerned citizens ought to complete due course of action for reporting suspicious activity and persons in their neighborhood. Community healthcare and psych hospital reform is not really the issue. That’s another discussion.
Katie Dale is the mind behind and GAMEPLAN: Mental Health Resource Guide. She enjoys her long runs and long naps to keep her bipolar in remission and resides in central Missouri with her husband and cat. You can follow her activity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.



Bundle of Joy to Postpartum Blues

Bundle of Joy to Postpartum Blues


I left the hospital three days after the birth of my second son. And like any mom, I was overjoyed to have my baby! And he has turned out to be a fun-loving, amusing little bundle of fun. Not so little anymore. This was six years ago. Did I mention I have two of these precious bundles? A sweet, gentle-hearted big brother too.

However, you can probably predict from the drift of this narrative that the joy of childbirth was short-lived.

I “left the hospital.” Only, I didn’t. I came home. But my mind, tarried at the hospital. Pacing up and down the hallway of the postpartum floor. Leaving me with a gloom, that I had left something behind. I could see the halls, an empty hospital crib, I could see the doors to the postpartum rooms. I felt like I was searching for something. I just didn’t know what!

I would have probably shed a sizable number of calories had the mental pacing I took on been literal. Sounds unreal? But, it had become a disturbing reality to my mind. I started to believe that I had wronged my child. A child who was perfectly whole. I began to mourn over my baby as though I had lost him. I was convinced that his premature birth was due to the lack of nurturing from his mama.

My days seemed blurry, delusional. I wasn’t able to keep track of myself, my surroundings, my kids, …everything! At this time, I was in graduate school, with a newborn and two year old. Needless to say, these alone were draining. And now something else had taken over my reality. Depression took over. Postpartum depression.

A lot of days, months and eventually years were spent in confusion and frustration. The diagnosis for postpartum came months after the mental confusion arose. I was started off on prescription medication to treat the symptoms. The symptoms however, would not yield to treatment. They began to multiply.

And alongside depression came another diagnosis…fibromyalgia. And pain flared up all over the body, accompanied by chronic fatigue, difficulty focusing, even immobility. The pain made me sensitive even to the slightest touch.

Everyday I dragged myself out of bed to try and keep up with routine – the kids, school, laundry, cooking. And unknowingly, these became merely robotic functions. My mind was more lost than ever. So lost that many times it send me running out of the house in a frenzy, barefoot, in the dark of the night. I didn’t know why I was running. All I knew was that I wanted to get away. Away from whatever was tormenting me. Only, it came home with me.

Everyday I held my babies. But my heart grew more distant from them. Even the daily feeding, reading, could not gather the bond I should have had toward them.

The distressing thing in this, is the shame my heart experienced while shouldering all of this. I felt responsible for the early birth of my child. I felt like people would judge me for the way I was; unwell, weak and withered. And indeed, some did.

Although it could have been sooner, I was finally able to assure myself that I wasn’t responsible for my illness or struggles. And that I am blessed to have these healthy, beautiful children.

I know that the past cannot be undone. But the mind kept wanting to go back and bandage all the hurt, make it better. And at other times, it felt like all the bandages in the world could not fix the pain.

I didn’t do it until almost two years into my struggle, but I started to share my struggle with those that were close to me and would genuinely care. I was fortunate to have my life sustained because of this care. Meanwhile, in my surrounding, the life of a young mother battling postpartum depression was tragically torn away from her precious children. Like many mothers, suffering in silence because of the guilt of feeling sadness after the birth of her bundle of joy.

If you are in the middle of your struggle with postpartum depression or any form of depression, I beg of you; don’t struggle in the dark. When you’re going through this, everything in your being will tell you that you are alone or strange.

That is far from the truth. Share your story with someone your heart trusts. Join a support group in your community or churches. You may see the faces of people that relate to you. Whose struggles are yours too. Look for support sites like Fresh Hope, where you could read about journeys of depression that may resonate with yours. Whether you’ve crossed over from depression or still walking it, our journeys matter.

God…the source of all comfort….comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

(2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬)

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Mastering the Art of Self-Distraction

Mastering the Art of Self-Distraction

By: Brad Hoefs

Have you ever been intently focused on writing something when someone comes up behind you to ask you a question? Slightly startled, you answer the question and try to return to what you were writing, and because your train of thought was interrupted you can’t get your creative writing juices going again!  Staying focused is a necessary attribute when attempting to do many different types of things. And when our train of thought is interrupted, it is hard to continue to come back to that same focus.


Think about it, It would be next to impossible as a parent of small children if you were attempting to read the instructions and put together your latest purchase from Ikea.  Picture it, you’re sitting in the middle of the room with all of the latest parts laid out for a new dresser, and the kids are consistently asking you questions about what you were doing and demanding your attention!  It would try your patience. Chances are that you would give up because you wouldn’t be able to focus on the task. Most likely you would come to the conclusion that the assembly process would be a lot easier if you weren’t getting distracted by the kids.  


Being focused is essential for getting a lot of different types of tasks done in this life.  However, sometimes being intensely focused or “stuck” in our thinking about something is not good and we end up needing to be distracted from it.  We need to be interrupted! There are times we can become intensely focused, ruminating over and over on something negative. It’s at that point that we need to interrupt and distract our thinking.  Mastering the art of self-distraction is key to overcoming overthinking and negative ruminating. Lest our brain begins to get stuck like the needle of a record player within one of the groves of a vinyl record.  (For those of you who might be too young to know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to “Google-it.” 🙂 )

So, how does self-distraction work?  

The most important thing to do is to make a list of at least five to seven things that you like to do and refresh you, that requires you to focus on them that restores you.  For example, one of these things for me is to do artwork. I like to paint or make things out of mixed mediums. So, whenever I do that, my mind resets. It’s like a fresh reboot of my brain.  The same thing happens if I get up and take a walk or a drive. It’s these sorts of things you need to put on your list. What makes you happy? Baking? Art? Sports? A good movie? Reading? A walk? Helping someone else? Time with a friend? Crafts?

As part of your list, include three friends that you enjoy being with that you could call and ask to do any one of these activities along with you.


  1. When you recognize the need to interrupt your thinking, first make the decision that you need to interrupt your thinking, that you need to self-distract.
  2. Choose one of the things to do from your already established list of “brain reboots.”  (By the way, even if the activity doesn’t require you to change your location or space, think about doing that anyway.  A different room of the house, changing your physical space or position certainly helps disrupt your ruminating.)
  3. If the first one you choose to do, doesn’t do the trick, pick another one.
  4. If that does not work, then call a friend and ask them to do one of them with you.  If the first of the three friends aren’t home, then move to the next one on the list. Hopefully at least one of the three of them will be available. Don’t give up easily.  Keep trying to get ahold of them until one of them can do something with you. And in the meantime, do something that absolutely needs to be done that you don’t like to do. Maybe it’s laundry?  Yardwork?


What if what the thinking that you are focused on is painful but necessary to do?  Sometimes there is thinking that feels worse than ruminating, yet we need to process to move on in life.  An example of this might be the work of grief. If this is the case, then you might need to tell yourself you are going to focus on working on it for the next 45 minutes, set a timer and then when the timer goes off set a time to come back to it later in the day or the next day.  And then go to your list and refresh yourself with something you like to do that will reset your thinking.

By nature, I’m a ruminator.  I tend to over think, over process things and get my “stinkin’ thinkin'” stuck in deep ruts.  So, learning the art of self-distraction has been one of the most helpful recovery tools that I have mastered.  How about you? Do you know how to self-distract? Do you have a list of your favorite distractors? What would you add to those I’ve mentioned above?


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


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