Mental Health: The Church and Our Families

May is National Mental Health Month. It’s easy to let this go by unrecognized. We’d rather not dwell on the difficulty of mental illness and how it affects so many of our friends and families. We all know someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness that makes daily living more challenging. We minimize and diminish the effect these illnesses have on our relationships, our careers, and even our connection with God. And unfortunately, we especially do this in the church.

The Church

In 2010 author Amy Simpson did a survey for Leadership Journey and other Christianity Today publications for church leaders. She asked a lot of questions, but these results were interesting particularly for pastors:

  •  38.7% have personally struggled with a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • 23% indicated they had suffered from some kind of anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder.
  • 9% have personally struggled with impulse control or addiction disorders such as pyromania, kleptomania, compulsive gambling, and alcohol and drug addictions.
  • 10.6% had family members who suffered from a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.
  • Although 80% of church leaders said they believe mental illness is “a real, treatable, and manageable illness caused by genetic, biological, or environmental factors, only 12.5% of them said mental illness is openly discussed in a healthy way in their church. (Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson)

As the leadership goes, so goes the church. If our leaders are not talking about mental illness openly, their people aren’t either. But just as we don’t ignore someone who is under a doctor’s care for cancer, we must not ignore those facing mental health issues.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15: 13 (ESV)

Our Families

So what can we do? If only 12.5% of churches are openly discussing this in a healthy way, how can we effect change? The reality is, WE are the church. Our families can start talking openly about our experiences and normalizing the stigma of mental illness. When we choose to offer hope to those who are suffering in silence, we do something powerful.

Speaking Up Breaks Down the Lies That Say:

You’re Alone

You’re Worthless

You’re Unloved

You’re Not Enough

Speaking Up, Speaks Truth:

We Stand with You

You’re Worthy

You’re Loved

You’re Enough

People with mental illness are worth fighting for! We can’t change mental illness or even the way it’s treated overnight, but we can provide the kind of Christ-like love and care that people deserve. We can do better. As individuals, as families, as the church, we can do better.

For Further Reading:

If today’s post was meaningful to you, would you share it with a friend on social media? This is how we will help to break the stigma of mental illness! And if you want further help with mental health or relational issues, please visit our Counseling Referrals Page.

This post was first published on Angela Howard’s personal blog: No Ordinary Days