Finding Dignity and Direction for Those in Despair

An Interview with Joe Padilla

Why are the brain’s mental processes not always taken seriously when people are hurting? Where do those who are hurting go for help?

In order to help answer these questions, Joe Padilla started the Mental Health Grace Alliance. After 10 years of fighting personal struggles, Joe developed a life-changing recovery process and wellness plan that provides astounding hope for people who suffer from mental illness.

Watch the Interview

There is a doctor or specialist and a healing protocol for almost every ailment, broken bone, torn muscle, or nonfunctioning organ in the body. Yet many who suffer from mental health challenges find it difficult to obtain viable, practical plans for treatment and recovery. This is shocking, considering that one in four Americans will experience some form of a mental health struggle in their lifetime.1National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Mental Illness Facts and Numbers,” reviewed by Dr. Ken Duckworth,, accessed May 19, 2015.

In addition to sometimes unhelpful healthcare providers; friends, family members, and colleagues can be critical of those who suffer from mental health issues, believing their struggles are a result of unconfessed sin, a lack of faith, or demonic activity.2Bob Smietana, “Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors,” LifeWay Research,, accessed May 19, 2015.

Interview Questions

  1. What experiences led to your mental health ministry?
  2. How did you explain your wife’s depression to your kids?
  3. Were you angry?
  4. How did the recovery process begin for you and your wife?
  5. How did you deal with gossip about your wife’s situation?
  6. How did you discover the need for mental health education in the church?
  7. How would you define recovery, and how do you help people start the process?
  8. What are some practical first steps for recovery from depression?
  9. What do you say to the parent who just found out his or her child is cutting?
  10. How does someone with low frustration tolerance establish a routine?
  11. What should we do and not do when communicating with our loved ones?
  12. What can you tell us about Dr. Matthew Stanford’s books?
  13. What do you say to those who feel they cannot go on?

Let Me Hear From You

Here are some questions only you can answer:

  • How do you react to someone in need?
  • Why do you think those with mental illnesses sometimes are treated with judgment and not with the same kind of support and care that those with other illnesses receive?
  • Do you accept or reject one who is cutting, suicidal, diagnosed with a mental health issue, depressed, in need of medication?
  • Have you yourself been stigmatized because of a mental illness?
  • Numerous solid programs exist, purposed to bring restoration. There’s also resources, planning tools, outlines, and people available to help you recover and find God’s purpose for your life? What’s holding you back from seeking your own restoration or helping others in need?

It’s time to not only survive but THRIVE!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Joe Padilla

Joe-PadillaJoe Padilla is a Baylor University graduate, a licensed and ordained minister, and a missionary with more than 12 years of overseas missions/ministry leadership experience. Joe has developed businesses and non-profits focused on national health campaigns, mentoring training programs, and organizational development. Joe cofounded Grace Alliance with Dr. Matthew Stanford in 2010 after extensive personal research in mental illness recovery and his longstanding success in guiding a family member through mental illness recovery. As CEO of Grace Alliance, Joe worked extensively with Dr. Stanford to develop all the Grace Alliance material resources and programs. With Joe’s vast experience and insight into mental illness and faith, he is often a keynote presenter nationally and internationally. Joe continues to provide personal consulting and mental health coaching for families and individuals living with mental illness.

Joe Padilla Resources

Insight for Living Ministries Resources

Special Needs Ministries Resources

Other Resources

Notes:   [ + ]

1. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Mental Illness Facts and Numbers,” reviewed by Dr. Ken Duckworth,, accessed May 19, 2015.
2. Bob Smietana, “Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors,” LifeWay Research,, accessed May 19, 2015.

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17 thoughts on “Finding Dignity and Direction for Those in Despair

  1. So its been a while… We have been walking through the darkness of a daughter who is special needs as well as suffering with bi polar, manic schizophrenia. I have to be honest, I feel hopeless about her care. There are no drugs that cure it, they only tamp down the symptoms, and when it stops working they up the dosage. As a family in ministry this has about taken us down more than once. Our lives come to a screeching halt when a manic episode starts.I know all the scriptures, I know I need to tell myself to get up, to be encouraged, but as I lay in bed(having to sleep with her because she cant sleep alone) looking up at the ceiling, my heart cry’s, where are you?? I thought by now you would have brought peace. But there seems to be more turmoil than ever.One of our precious friends who prayed daily for us was killed last week in a freak accident. The heavens seem silent. There is no treatment in the state we live in for her. There are just days of a crashed reality. I have no idea where to go from here, we just keep living through it. Holding her when she scared, holding each other when she scares us. I don’t see the purpose in the pain for her, she was precious a gift so sweet, and now this whole other person we don’t even know. I have always been a person who could find joy no matter the circumstances ( a God gift I am sure) but I told my husband this week, I just don’t know how any more I feel lost because I can’t find it Its like grieving a death that doesn’t end. . And we are suppose to be the strength for everyone else. We are both pretty private people, but I just don’t care anymore. We are broken and we need prayer. We are weary, simple. I do not doubt God, or His sovereignty. I know He is here even in the silence.But sometimes the silence closes in around me, like tonight.

    • Lurlene, I’m very thankful for your honestly…and so very, very sorry to hear the deep groan and ache in your voice. Oh L….I understand these seasons of total exhaustion. I know I cannot fix your challenges but I can listen and pray and care and walk along-side you as a friend who thoroughly understands the heartache and despair. If I can offer help or direction, but mostly, a listening ear without judgment! The demands on you are beyond exhausting. This is one of the most challenging diagnosis…not knowing ‘who’ will show up through the hours of each day. I have said your very words….I know in my head all the verses, all the “Christian” ways we are told to deal with suffering…I also know my soul is totally dried up, empty, alone. Trying to hear from God when the heaven’s remain silent is another kind of suffering I think. How the enemy loves to jump into these situations and confuse our thinking. Your true statements of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness are vital right now. Even if you don’t feel they are true, they are…repeat them over and over…ask God to help you “want to want to stay the course”. On a positive note, your statement about being private but now you don’t care…WHAT GREAT NEWS! Giving up what other’s think is the road to freedom. We are called to honor God; who gives a massive rip what any other person thinks. They don’t live in your home, have your responsibilities, understand the demands or daily depleting experiences you live with. LA, most never get to this place…a mindset free of worry about other’s judgments makes room for God to work in and through you without shame or false guilt. This road is often lonely, requires spiritual maturity, and yet, will allow you to see and know your Father in Heaven in the most pure and undistracted way. Even though you don’t see your growth, I hear it and applaud it.
      If and when you have time, I would like to know what tests you have done, meds she’s on, doctor’s you have seen….not names per say but some generalities. I have done a ton of alternative and very new treatments with Jon which have proved to be very beneficial. For example, doing some genetics testing showed us what medications he can/cannot tolerate. He was on one for 4 years that he can’t even absorb; never knew until the genetics test revealed that to us. It’s that kind of thing that may help. We see a research neuropsychiatrist who tries to use more natural things like vitamins formulated in a way that his body can absorb them fully. The difference it has made has been astounding. However, I think what is needed most is for you to tell the Lord how tired you are, you need Him to reach down and wrap your soul up in His arms of comfort. I’m here anytime you need to vent, share, question, whatever. Please know I am praying for you this very moment…for the Lord to show you direction, give you wisdom, and sustain you during this hard time. We know He is close to the brokenhearted as is written in the Psalms…I’m for you and believe in you. Thanks for connecting. All my love and care, Colleen

      • Colleen the state of Washington requires me to have guardianship of her even though she has never left our home. She cant sign papers or wont because she is in such a flux mental state. So at this point we have no insurance benefits for her and we cannot get ssi for her till the guardianship is signed. We only have 1 Dr who will see her without them, he wants to switch meds constantly, he talks as if she is not in the room. He looked at a brain scan from 6 years ago and said everything looks normal?? I cant even get her into a hospital or blood work because of how scared she is of them. PTSD she wont even leave the house on most days. Last time it was 3 weeks and she only was out for a couple of hours. We went as far in debt as we can afford to be able to see the 1 dr we did. When I contacted the Christian Clinic in Seattle they wouldn’t even talk to me, said we would have to check her into the state hospital in Spokane(which has horror stories) and have a 72 hour observation. We live 4 hours from there. She would go completely out of her mind if she was left somewhere like that. we may never have the hope of getting her back. SO thats where I am, I don;t know where to turn. It feels hopeless.

        • Lurlene,
          Oh my friend, I can hear the despair in your voice. I am so, so sorry the path right now is offering little to no light at the end of the tunnel. I have always heard the years after they end school are ever so challenging. When we entered these processes last year, I had to fully agree….it’s ever so complicated and discouraging. We started the guardianship process over a year ago and it’s still in the works. So I understand that challenge. One of the laws in Texas-not sure for WA-is “guided decision making” instead of guardianship. It offers your loved one to make some decisions so all their rights aren’t taken away (if they are capable of having the rights chosen, that is). I also looked up some info on WA and found these links that may be of help:
          General and health care info:
          More legal support:
          I also agree….state run hospitals are notorious for having horror stories. As I read your concern, I could hear your love for your daughter which is to be greatly applauded. Even though you are exhausted, you still are pulling through and I am so impressed with your care! That doesn’t solve problems but it’s helpful to hear you are doing so, so much…continuing to give even though you are depleted. If these links don’t offer you much, PLEASE let me know and I’ll do some more searching.
          I also just thought of the “Go Fund Me” pages and other financial help organizations. I don’t know if you have checked into that but it may be worth it. There has to be some way you are able to get help…I know you can take her to the social security office and apply for SSI and Medicare/Medicaid. My first trip was w/o Jon and the guy said it would be so much more simple to have him there so that’s what we did. I don’t know if she will go out with you to do that; perhaps you can see what the office needs for the application and do as much at home first. How I wish I could just fly over and help…please know I’m praying, I understand, I care deeply and this will pass. In it all, I would get on my knees and ask God to meet you right where you are today. Sometimes our strength has to be fully and completely gone for us to see God fill us in unimaginable ways. It’s a hard road but I know He is with you even when it seems He isn’t. Please stay connected…you can’t endure alone and I’m here to support however I can. You are one amazing mother and woman! Colleen

          • You said I could ask so I am. We are walking through the darkness again. Very Brief respite from it all then she dove back into the unknown for seemingly no reason. It seems to be a cycle as I have been trying to track things. But it is the hardest thing to want to comfort a child who is scared beyond belief of something imaginary and you cant. The jerk away in fear when you try to hold them. She will not leave the room I’m in. I am like her security blanket, But a pretty worn out tattered around the edges one. My heart aches for her. Asking for prayer for wisdom, grace and strength as the no sleep cycle starts. Thank you again for listening!!

          • Lurlene,
            My dear friend, I am so sorry for how exhausted, concerned, and helpless you feel right now. It sounds like there is a ton of anxiety and I’m sure you have sought out all the medications and how to meet her needs; only to find you are at this place again. I am so sorry. I’m reading an excellent book titled “Plan B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy”. It’s not a Christian publication per say but it’s packed with support for those who suffer. The writer lost her husband suddenly and was left with their two small children. The co-author is a Wharton grad who is fantastic at understanding how to help others through hard times. One key point I just read was on “self-compassion”. We give so much to our loved ones and all their needs, we forget to affirm and handle ourselves with compassion. The concept is to remove our negative self-talk…I should have, could have, wish I would have… and replace it with affirming talk. He suggests making a list at the end of the day, identifying 3 contributions you made to life. We often overlook these but growing in resiliency means we need to identify what we are contributing even if the situation as a whole isn’t ‘fixable’. For example, I would encourage you to note when you have cleaned up, made the bed, done laundry, gone to work, said something to someone that was affirming, endured something hard with your daughter, chose to pray about something you would have originally worried about, so on. While we can’t fix so many things, we can learn to observe how much we give and find confidence in God’s work through us. Additionally, I will pray fervently for you and your ability to endure, to have wisdom and find the right specialists if that’s needed, for your daughter to be free from the paralyzing anxiety, and for your family to find refreshment somehow in the days ahead. I hope this help…please know I believe you are totally amazing and are doing a knockout job with the challenges you have each day. Please write again anytime. I’ll be praying. Colleen

          • So today, (after an extreme rough week still rough) I get an email from a local organization here saying, one of our employees had to leave work permanently because her young daughter has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and I thought of you and your daughter wondering if you would be her support network.( My first response was like are you kidding me?? I have zero answers, my faith has been shaken like never before. I am beyond overwhelmed with busy. Then I heard that still small voice say, No suffering is in vain. can you let Me get Glory from this even when it seems hopeless.I was like YES!! NO!! I don’t want to be vulnerable. But then reminded, His strength is made perfect in us, when ours is gone! I don’t feel like I have anything to offer…but if He can use me I’m willing. I truly covet your prayers!! In myself I have nothing and I mean nothing. But maybe that’s what where I am suppose to be as I write those words,,,Maybe its where he uses me speaks through me when I don’t have a starting place except comfort.

            She then stated also my friend had a daughter with similar to what you are going through and they tried all kinds of drugs for years to no avail. They switched to a natural approach and she is functioning on an almost normal basis.
            I contacted a friend a couple of days ago who studied natural remedies, she gave me a couple of suggestions to try. I ordered them promptly, and we are going to try. them.
            Maybe answers are starting to come. Please pray for us.

          • Lurlene,
            This is totally fantastic. What we forget as Christian’s quite often is that God works through us best when there’s so much more of Him and so little of us. I have learned when we are emptied out like you talked about here, HE shines even brighter. You don’t have to know anything to comfort someone. You just have to care from your soul. Some of the most comforting times have happened in my life when the person didn’t say anything…they just sat, listened, cried, and stayed close. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy when Paul was awaiting death at the fierce hands of Nero… “…I am being poured out like a drink offering”…in the original language it referred to the pouring of wine or the shedding of blood. However, Paul was attempting to convey to young Timothy that the ultimate sign of courage is facing death without fear, living a life fully surrendered to Christ regardless of what all humanity said or did to him. His sole focus was honoring God on earth, keeping the hope of heaven ever deep in his soul. In McLaren’s commentary, he writes: “Paul’s long day’s work is nearly done. He is a prisoner in Rome, all but forsaken by his friends, in hourly expectation of another summons before Nero. To appear before him was, he says, like putting his head into ‘the mouth of the lion.’… What a road he had travelled since that day when, on the way to Damascus, he saw the living Christ, and heard the words of His mouth! It had been but a failure of a life, if judged by ordinary standards. He had suffered the loss of all things, had thrown away position and prospects, had exposed himself to sorrows and toils, had been all his days a poor man and solitary, had been hunted, despised, laughed at by Jew and Gentile, worried and badgered even by so-called brethren, loved the less, the more he loved. And now the end is near.” Paul also expressed his earthly experiences in II Corinthians 1…thought he would die, had nothing to give…but then follows with “But GOD…”. God rescued, God filled, God comforted, God kept Paul in His great care and from that, Paul’s exhortation to us all is that from the comfort we are given, so we are able and equipped to comfort others. THIS is life lived in the Spirit…not our abilities but HIS. I’m so excited and cannot wait to hear how the story unfolds. Please keep me in the loop, Lurlene! You have been chosen by the Lord to carry out His will…DIVE IN and watch our Father work. Yes! Bless you dear friend! Colleen

  2. My mother was a schizophrenic all my life. My dad is my hero! He stood by her his whole life. There are four other siblings in the family. Sooner or later–in my case – later you develop Agape love and you accept the illness for what it is. In effect it gives you a much greater appreciation for the mental capabilities you have been given. I went on to get my BS in Engineering from VMI and my masters from USC. Two of my sisters obtained Masters degrees and my brother became a very successful Orthopedic Surgeon. I attribute the vocational and educational success that we have had to the motivation that was sublimely indoctrinated in us as a result of mom’s sickness. But more than that it was my dad’s forbearance, perseverance and the willingness to love and remain faithful to his marriage vows — in sickness and health– to remain faithful. And yes mom’s sickness was very expensive and affected the lifestyle my father had to adjust to. “I always wanted nice furniture but realized that was not to be”. My dad my hero he showed me the way with his dedication, love and perseverance. I am 76 years old and even today I consider myself to have been very blessed to have these parents

    • Frank,
      What an incredible note! It doesn’t usually take me this long to reply but we were out of the state…I am so sorry. However, when I read your words, there was a softness to your soul that has come from the challenges you have endured. What great choices to make…to endure, to find God’s hand in it, to seek His purpose and not give in to societies belief’s that we ‘deserve better’, and I could go on and on. You are an incredible inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others. May the Lord fill your days with joy and abundant peace as you live for Him. Thank you for sharing this with us all! Colleen

  3. I loved this interview. Especially because I suffer from an anxiety disorder that was brought on after suffering from postpartum depression after having my second child. I am a Christian woman who loves the Lord. To hear this testimony touched my heart to know that finally someone has spoken about this topic. I pray that this ministry continues to grow and brings hope to all those who suffer in silence.

    • Yvonne,
      What courage you have to share your experience. I too have had episodic depressive season’s and there has not been an open ear until recent years. We usually suffer alone which makes the depression all the more severe. I hope you will share this interview or the organization Joe started with many…the word id must get out because we are becoming a society lost in mental confusion and we must have a spiritual foundation to stand upon. There is so much hope in The Grace Alliance…their work is the most balanced I’ve seen and studied for mental wellness and church support. And there are no greater advocates for such a program than those who have lived through the darkest pits. Thank you for sharing and I hope I will continue to hear from you. Colleen

  4. Thank you for discussing this topic! This was a fantastic interview. It is so full of insights, encouragement and most of all hope! The impact of disibability on a persons mental health whether they are a caregiver or a person with a disability trying to manage your own needs can be profound. I really appreciated the information and piratical steps that were shared throughout your discussion with Joe.

    Mental health is not an easy topic to discuss. All too often it seems that when you are the one struggling daring to approach the subject leads to further isolation. It is acceptable to go to a doctor or talk to a friend about physical pain, but to bring up a mental and emotional struggle is often not validated or understood. You are expected to ” Just get over it.” and move on, but what if you can not? It was good to see an effective piratical way through the
    oppressive desert of anxiety and discouragement, and to be reminded that recovery takes time but there is hope.

    One blessing in facing a struggle with mental heath is that you become sensitive to the needs of others who are struggling in a similar way. You can then help to break down the wall of isolation, stand in the gap and be a voice that softly says to another, “You are not alone.” Thank you for sharing this interview, Colleen!

    With Gratitude,


    • Melissa,
      I am so honored to hear from you knowing how difficult it is for you to write. Thank you. Yes, it is astounding that we run to open doors for those with broken bones, organs that don’t function…except for the brain which is a human organ just like other vital organs. One great hope is that these interviews will be shared among so many people that word will get out and people will know there is help for healing. It’s a wellness plan just like there is one for all other healing treatments. I think it’s ignorance and fear more than intention to hurt. Joe and his family certainly are carving a path for many to follow…by sharing, let’s hope the tide begins to change. All my prayers are still with you and for you! Colleen

  5. Hi Colleen, there is so much to think about in this interview. I plan to listen to it again. I want to thank Joe and his wife for sharing their story. I worked in the field of psychiatric nursing for a few years. As well, my own life situation has created challenges to my own mental health. So this topic is very dear to me. I find it is very difficult to meet my own needs in the midst of caring for my son with disabilities. I find it is not obvious at most times how to manage it all. I can really relate to what Joe says about it does take time and there is real hope in it all. God has put me in the ‘class room’ so to speak and I am learning things that are amazing as a result. The biggest thing that I am learning is about God’s unconditional love and how it can free me and my family in so many ways.Thank you again Colleen for sharing your own experiences and for praying for me -I am always encouraged by God through you.

    • Madeline,
      What an incredible reply…yes, I too am so thankful for Joe’s vulnerability and willingness to share his story with honesty. There are not a lot of places or people who understand how hard and demanding caregiving can be. Not to mention the rest of life that is already hard. I plan to pass your note on to Joe as well…he will be so encouraged! I also want you to know you are safe to say anything you need to say, express any feelings you need to express, and just be right where you are anytime we connect. I don’t expect this road to be easy or people to be anything other than just what they are. You have a lot on your plate and it’s my assumption there is far more than you are able to express on a post or in public. So please remember you are in my prayers constantly and I am thankful for every connection we share. May the Lord lift you high today and hold you in His everlasting arms. Colleen
      Colleen Swindoll Thompson
      Insight for Living Ministries
      Director~Special Needs