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  • Writer's pictureVivian Foley

Of Dads and Duties

This year was a different Father's Day than I have yet experienced in my life. It was my first (and likely only) in Singapore and the first since my father passed away last year. As we are coming up on that difficult anniversary, I have been remembering some of last year's experiences with him. My dad has always been a confusing person for me to understand but I feel so much gratitude when I remember the ways I was able to have compassion for him during his final days on the Earth. He worked hard through his life to provide for us and he had a strong sense of duty to God and his faith. He loved his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren were a delight to him. I can think of no greater way to honor him (and to bless me) than the time I spent by his bedside holding his hand and trying to comfort him last summer. I'm glad I was able to have those tender moments!


I am also truly grateful for the other fathers in my life including my wonderful husband Sean, my father-in-law Larry, and my two sons Brock and Ryan who I love watching grow in their fatherhood.


Sean suggested a while ago that I blog about experiences as an Area Mental Health Advisor, so I'll give it a try. As I work with the missionaries, some are nervous about seeing a "mental health" provider. I assure them that the range of my work is large: from minor annoyances to critical mental health crises. Here are some things I have done in my seven months of serving as an AMHA. I'm also including some links to some of the great resources I frequently use with missionaries but which can be helpful to all.


  • Building better sleep routines. I have counseled a lot about things as simple as getting to bed and getting up at the expected missionary times. At times there are struggles with slowing down thoughts and worries to allow for sleep, and of course there is the ever-present distraction of devices. One of the most unusual struggles I have worked with was a missionary who walked in their sleep and kept their companion awake with worries. (On a side note, when our grandchildren visited, one of them did some funny sleepwalking in the night that reminded me of their father in his younger years.). If sleep problems are your thing too, see some ideas here in Section D.

  • Stress and anxiety. I always use this great compilation to normalize stress and equip missionaries with some quick skills to help them move on with their missions in productive ways. So many of us deal with stress, but don't really understand its importance in growth, nor how to manage stress so it doesn't impact us negatively.

  • Companionship issues. This has been one of my favorite opportunities to work with missionaries as my career was focused on improving relationships. Missionary companionships are unique as they don't choose their companion or how long they will work together. There are many issues in this type of setting and I have been able to watch missionaries learn some basic relationship skills and practice them with their companions. As they learn and have success with these skills I know that I am setting them up for future successes with their spouses and families.


  • Depression. Some of these wonderful missionaries have struggled previously, without ever identifying or recognizing that they were struggling with depression. Some have struggled with thoughts of hopelessness and minor-to-moderate suicidal ideation. As they serve as missionaries these issues do not just disappear, but can manifest in new ways. I am grateful for the last few years of my career supervising new therapists as we did a lot of training on suicide assessment and treatment protocols. The missionaries with whom I have worked have responded well to a variety and combination of approaches including medication, exercise and healthy thinking habits, improved recognition and communication, and others. There are some great tools here in Section B.


  • Obsessive compulsive type behaviors and addictions. I have learned a lot from working with missionaries as they have patiently taught me about their experience while I worked on some ideas of treatment. Fortunately, I am learning a lot and am now more clear on good treatment plans. I was pleased that the last missionary I worked with was quick to learn important coping skills and change unwanted behaviors. Some great resources are in Chapter 7 of the Emotional Resilience course.


  • Post traumatic stress syndrome and other more serious mental health disorders. Sometimes the issues missionaries face can't effectively be addressed in the mission field. An important part of my role is helping leaders and missionaries recognize and navigate this. I have worked with a few missionaries that have chosen to transfer to a service mission so they could focus on needed growth in their mental health coping skills.


This is a small taste of the work I do with missionaries. Look forward to another blog where I will try to share with you more of my experiences working with mission leaders and the area medical team. All of these duties are done with gratitude for the blessing to serve and help others. That is one of the greatest lessons I learned by example from my dad. He was one to look for the underdog and try to help those in need and that example wasn't lost on me.




Photos:

1-6: Sights and tastes of Kuching. We had a wonderful time on our first trip to East Malaysia, despite some hassle navigating the crazy weight limits of the discount airline we used! We loved the great senior and junior missionaries we were with.

7-8: Malaysia flower shots by Vivian.

9: Outside the District Center where we spent much of our working time in Kuching.

10: Flying home over Indonesia (which shares the island of Borneo with Malaysia and Brunei).

11-12: Another wonderful Institute class and YSA activity.

13: A beautiful table covering sent from Sweden to Singapore by our daughter Sage.

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