Recently it was World Mental Health Day. Although people are realizing how important mental health awareness is there aren’t a lot of answers on how to help mental health suffers (long term wise) and how people can help them. Studies show that 1 in 4 people suffer from some sort of mental illness so it is a good assumption that if you don’t suffer from it yourself then you know of someone who does.
As much as people want to avoid this issue it has become a major problem in our world that we need to face. And there clearly is a stigma attached to mental illness such as one would expect. These illnesses range from bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc.
So how can the church help people with mental health issues? The simple answer is to love them right where they are and to encourage them to fellowship with others. As Christians I think when we encounter a person with these types of issues we are good at telling them that we will be praying for them. What is more important is that we involve them in our community. We have good intentions when we want to pray for them but what they are really looking for is connecting with others. It’s to be noticed in a crowd despite the problems they may be facing. If you have a community group or small group at your church inviting them is a great start.
They want to feel known just as much as anyone else and while counseling and sometimes medicine are appropriate for their health sometimes it’s just not the answer. The answer to helping these people is encouraging them to fellowship with their community or small group.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10:24-25
We have to remember to encourage one another regardless of the brokenness in our lives. I think there is a misconception that if a person is saved and Jesus lives in them, then they won’t deal with things like mental illness. Sadly that is not true and it is important that people put Jesus first in their lives but it is also important that they surround themselves with Jesus loving people on a regular basis. Community is crucial to us all but especially to people who suffer from mental illness.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:14
These people need community and that means the church extending a hand like any other crisis. I recently heard a startling study on people who join radical groups such as islamic extremists. It’s easy to write these people off as just “crazy people” who joined an even crazier organization. These people join these groups because they are looking to belong. They are looking for community and to be noticed and these groups give them that opportunity. Sadly people are craving community so badly that they will join any group that satisfies these needs of theirs.
So as a church I pray we can gather together in community (outside of church) because it is clearly a need for us all. And for some people who suffer from these mental illnesses it could be just the answer they need in order to find healing.