I am experiencing a time of as-good-as-it-gets with the symptoms of schizophrenia. I always have symptoms, but my symptoms are not always debilitating. Right now, my life looks similar to the lives of most people I know.
During the good times, I try to consciously remember those who have the same illness as me, but who have a much harder time managing their mental illness. Maybe they are without treatment, maybe they are medication resistant, or maybe they lack a network of people to assist them in getting care.
For whatever reason, there are people with schizophrenia who live on the streets and I make an effort not to forget them and not to distance myself from their experiences, because I know there is very little that separates me from them. I could easily be walking in their worn out, secondhand shoes.
That is why I want to thank the people who work at soup kitchens. I want to thank the people that prepare and serve food to the most vulnerable of the mentally ill among us – the people living on the street. I want to thank those people that show up in June, July, September, and not just during the season where everyone is focused on giving – I want to thank the people that are there year-round, serving a hot cup of coffee, asking people how they are doing, and making sure they have nourishing food to give people to eat.
Those people who care for people living in the streets with schizophrenia in the most basic of all ways, by providing them with food, are my heroes. They are the on the front line of mental health treatment and care and they often get overlooked. A person with schizophrenia who is living on the street may not have the insight to seek medical attention, but they will seek out food, and it is in soup kitchens all across the country that this first line of care is taking place.
Most people who cook and serve food in soup kitchens are not social workers, they aren’t mental health professionals, they aren’t psychologists or psychiatrists, but they are providing life-saving care to those in need.
This month, I was asked if there was anyone who had shown kindness regarding my mental illness. For every meal provided to someone with schizophrenia, I consider that a kindness shown to me, because I have been close to needing those services. It is just luck and circumstance that keep me from the hunger those on the streets have. Some of that hunger isn’t just for food, but to know there is someone somewhere that cares.
Soup kitchens are a life line and I would like to thank everyone who works or volunteers at one for being on the front line treating those with a severe mental illness. There are so many ways to offer care – thank you for filling such a critical need.
Homeless man photo available from Shutterstock