Today we’re gonna talk about how the church can be a stigma free zone for those fighting mental illness.
I’m Angela Howard and my passion is to break the stigma of mental health issues among fellow Christians. If you’re new to my channel please subscribe and don’t forget to click on that notifications bell so you don’t miss out on any of the new content.
Last week a friend sent me another article about a pastor who had taken his own life. When I read the headline I didn’t feel the shock that I used to feel, but I did feel sadness and frustration. The lead pastor of the church made a statement saying that his friend and colleague had struggled privately with mental health challenges—some of which he bravely discussed in public. And that’s what struck me “some.” This pastor felt like he could share “some” of his struggles publically, but even his closest friends didn’t know the depths of his pain and were shocked by his suicide. I honestly believe the reason that those struggling with mental health issues only discuss “some” of their pain is the direct result of stigma.
How can the church be a stigma free zone for those fighting mental illness? How can we shine a light in the darkest places of people’s lives and offer hope so that they won’t feel ashamed to tell the truth?
- Get armed with the facts. 90% of those who die by suicide show signs of a mental health condition. https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers If people are not getting treated for their condition they are more likely to take their own lives. Amy Simpson writes that “The appropriate treatment and management of mental illness is one important way–possibly the most important way–to prevent suicide.”
- Speak up and use your platform. Whether you are a pastor or a member of a congregation you can use your influence to make a difference. Pastors can be open about their own struggles and invite others to share their stories publically.
- Stop telling people to “cure” their mental illness with prayer and Bible reading. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in divine healing. I believe in the power of prayer and I know that God’s word is authoritative. In fact, I would go so far as to say we ALL need more spiritual discipline, regardless of circumstance. But when we encourage people with mental illness to try to cure themselves first with Bible reading and prayer it sends the message that other treatment should be discouraged. We would never do that to someone with a broken arm, or diabetes. “First try Bible reading and prayer for 6 months and if you’re still not better, then you can go to the doctor.” The reality is we live in a broken world where sometimes our brains get sick, just like our heart’s get sick. The balanced approach is simultaneously praying and believing for healing while seeking treatment from medical health professionals, and counseling from trusted, trained counselors who are Christians and can come alongside you in faith.
There is hope for the church to be a stigma free zone for those fighting mental illness. You can be a part of making that happen in your church today. Remember what it says in 1 Corinthians 12:24-27…
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:24-27 (NIV)
What ideas do you have to break the stigma of mental illness in the church? I’d love to hear from you today, comment below.
No more confusion or wondering how you’ll face the roller coaster of life with mental illness. Mental Health Academy is here to take the mystery away, and give you the knowledge and the tools you need to have relationships that last! The time is NOW to get our first course: Trauma.
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Connect to a counselor
Further Reading: Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson