In light of World Mental Health Day, I felt the need to pay homage and express something that has been on my mind lately. This is a topic that I am very passionate about and I believe that those who struggle with mental illness of any kind and stature should have a voice. Not just a voice, but a voice that is heard; and not only heard, but understood. Unfortunately, I find this harder amongst the Christian community and I feel for them, deeply.
I was raised entirely in a Christian home and went to church all my life. Sadly the stigma is so thick that it can be frustrating and seemingly impossible for young people to cut through. The mere mental struggles that our Christian youth are grappling with are simply painted over with broad strokes of “Christians shouldn’t be depressed, you need to trust in God and pray more” or “The bible says ‘be anxious about nothing’ so you shouldn’t have anxiety”. Now I am in no way degrading the bible or the power of prayer. I completely believe that God can heal a person’s mind, but first we must acknowledge that this person’s mind is in fact, ill.
This is where I pose a problem. Mental health is rarely discussed in the church and I feel that most think that it is a rather hostile environment to talk about these issues. It breaks my heart to see so many youth profusely drowning in mental illness because they cannot have a healthy conversation in the church or with their families. Therefore it is hard for them to get the adequate help that they need because nobody takes them seriously. If someone were to reveal that they had cancer (which I have seen many times in my church), the whole congregation would crowd over this person to pray and offer support through money, food, time, encouragement, etc. Yes, I’m sure they would share a few scriptures in this trying time, but they would not use them to downplay the fact that this individual’s body is ill. I’m sure they would positively tell this person to “trust in God and He’ll bring you through it” instead of using the tone of “this is happening because you are not trusting in God enough”. I could be missing the mark on this, but I’m speaking from my personal experience.
We live in a fallen world and our bodies are susceptible to disease and ailments. So wouldn’t it make sense that our brains are just as susceptible to ailments as well? Our minds get sick just like our bodies get sick. Thus, we take the proper precautions to insure that our bodies get well. Why can’t we do the same for our minds? We can start by having the conversation in a very open, non-judgmental manner. We need to become more aware of those battling with mental health problems, especially the youth because they may not know how to cope as well. We need to come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ who are wallowing in the trenches and offer them a hand of support, to encourage them and let them know that are seen and heard. We need to prominently bust through the thick wall of stigma and vividly build something new. We need to take action, both as individuals and as the church. God could use you to help someone in their healing process, and I believe that we need to create an environment where this very thing can happen.