As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And there are countless Christian ministries showing love for those who are suffering, from the poor to the widowed, to the orphaned.
But sometimes we struggle to know how best to help our brothers and sisters who suffer with mental illness.
Here are 4 ways you can get started doing so today:
1. Help remove the social stigma of mental illness
Despite great strides in the last decade, mental health issues still have a stigma attached to them.
Too often, that stigma prevents people from seeking the care they need when battling mental health issues—and Christians are certainly not immune to this problem!
When someone says, “I suffer from depression,” we should view it no differently than when someone says, “I am a diabetic.”
Offer love, support, and understanding when someone is battling a mental health problem, just like any other health problem.
2. Educate yourself about mental health issues and start conversations
We will de-stigmatize mental health issues by educating ourselves and then educating others.
This is critical because we are living in a time of an unprecedented epidemic of mental illness. The reasons for this epidemic are beyond the scope of this article, but almost all of us are either experiencing a mental health issue or know someone who is.
The toll this is taking on our brothers and sisters in Christ is huge.
Teen suicide rates are at their highest levels in two decades. According to nami.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year.
1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experience a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
When we learn the facts surrounding mental health, we can then start conversations in our homes, our churches, and in our communities.
3. Find some way to serve
Many churches organize bringing home-cooked food for anyone who’s just had an operation, a new baby, is starting chemo, recovering from an accident, etc. You may have participated in a program like this before, either receiving or cooking meals.
If serving those suffering with mental health issues is on your heart, perhaps you can approach your pastor about expanding this meal program to those suffering a major depressive episode, or whose child was just diagnosed with schizophrenia. Perhaps you can volunteer to be a leader to make it happen.
You will likely find that there are many others willing to serve those suffering with mental illness in this way, but they just didn’t know about their struggles.
And we don’t know because the fear of stigma or judgement keeps people silent about the problem.
4. Seek help yourself if you need it
If you are a Christian who is suffering with mental health issues, please, be bold!
Tell your church family and let them love you. Let them know how they can help you and allow yourself to accept that help.
In doing so, you will pave the way for others to be brave and speak out about their own struggles.
You may think it won’t make a difference, but if you change how even just one person looks at mental illness, it could likely cause a chain reaction.
Far too many people refuse to seek help for their mental health problems out of fear or shame or both.
But Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear; for I am with you; and do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
God IS larger than our fears. He is with us in our times of darkness and dismay. Trust in Him and trust what His Word says.
Seek help boldly and without fear. Tell your brothers and sisters in Christ about what you are going through. Give them the chance to support you, and forgive them if they stumble in finding the right way to do so.
Educate those around you. Talk openly about what you are experiencing. In doing this, you open a door to communication and remove any sense of the subject being “taboo.”
And with Christians often more comfortable seeking help from Christian counselors, there are also many resources available that can connect you to reputable faith-based providers!
Focus on the Family has an exhaustive list of Christian mental health care providers. You can have a consultation with a counselor, at no charge, or they can help connect you with reputable providers in your area.
You can find them at https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/counseling-services-and-referrals/
It is time to change the narrative about mental health. It is time to bring it into the light, remove any sense of shame or stigma, and treat it like we do all other health problems.
Can you imagine the difference it would make in a person’s life if they could open up to their small group and say, “I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I feel overwhelmed and afraid.”
And then to have that met with an outpouring of love and support—instead of shocked silence or disapproval?
Let’s all remember Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Speak to your leadership about how your church handles the support of those with mental illness and their families.
Let’s open up a dialogue that will reverberate through the whole body of Christ!
Once we do, we can destroy all sense of shame and stigma that surrounds mental health issues.