Temple Grandin is quite an extraordinary individual. At 4 years of age she was diagnosed with “brain damage” (later identified as autism), and her mother was told that she would never learn to speak.
At the time autism was poorly understood, and treatments were nonexistent. Despite tremendous barriers, with continued caring support of her family — and finding the right schools and teachers who believed in her abilities — Grandin flourished. She learned to talk, and she went on to complete college and gain advanced degrees, bringing incredible innovation to her field of work. She is now a renowned expert lecturer on autism spectrum disorders, which she credits much to the supportive community that did not give up on her.
I first heard about Grandin while working in autism research in the early 2000s, when there was heightened interest in the area and a strong push for more research and treatment methods. Much is still unknown about autism and other developmental disabilities, but it is very encouraging to see that many autistic individuals have fulfilling lives and relationships.
Today we are facing seemingly insurmountable issues with other conditions that involve brain function. The human brain is the most complex organ of our bodies, and some say the most complex structure in the known universe. It can likewise be incredibly devastating when it doesn’t work as expected — and when there are few answers as to why.
Ellen White penned these words in the book Counsels on Health: “Sickness of the mind prevails everywhere. Nine tenths of the diseases from which men suffer have their foundation here.”* While we can take this quote at face value, we also should dig deeper into her meaning. How did she define “sickness of the mind,” and what more can we learn about the “foundation”? What leads to the sickness? Can we prevent it? Is there hope for the sufferer?
For these reasons and more, North American Division Health Ministries is turning a laser focus on the topic of mental health and wellness. To launch this, we are hosting a virtual, online mental health summit on March 31 to April 3, 2022. We will hear from experts in the field about anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other mental illnesses. We will consider how trauma and addictions impact lives and what is involved on the road to recovery; about population-level factors that can impact mental well-being; wholistic approaches to healing, including the role of healthy spirituality; and much more. Continuing education credits will be available for health-care practitioners, while practical trainings and certifications will equip church members to recognize mental health needs and to support the healing journey.
Yet that is only the beginning.
Through our mental health initiative, Adventist HealthyYOU: Restored, we are embracing the processes that God uses for the renewing of our minds. In the Creation story we can find evidence of the amazing mental capacities that God created in us. This gives us a biblical imperative to better understand the mind, how it functions, how to keep it healthy, how to improve its abilities, and how to be restored. Visit www.NADhealth.org/restored to learn more about the mental health summit and more resources to come.
* Ellen G, White, Counsels on Health, p. 324.
— Angeline D. Brauer, Dr.PH, MHS, RDN, is director of North American Division Health Ministries.