Disclaimer: Yes, I am a Mental Health Professional, but I may not currently be your personal provider and this blog content does not create a provider-client relationship. This blog content is for educational purposes and should not be seen as medical advice. You should consult with your personal licensed mental health provider before you rely on this information.
Have you noticed that the topic of mental health has been at the forefront of many media outlets in the past recent years due to an increase in violence, suicide, divorce, and substance abuse in our nation? With the recent pandemic, political divides, social injustices, rise in violence, increasing economic struggles, wars, etc., we can assume that this topic is not going away any time soon. More and more people are struggling with increased anxiety, anger, and hopelessness. A matter of fact, I believe that we are living in a season where God wants to bring this topic of mental health to the front of everyone’s mind, especially Christians. God wants to expose how the enemy has increasing used the mind as a place for captivity where suppression occurs in an attempt to keep believers from living a free, joyful, and fruitful life. The good news is that we know the God that we serve and no matter what struggle we face individually or as a nation, the Spirit of God is on our side and He provides wisdom, knowledge, direction, strength, peace, and anything that we need to have victory in this area of our lives.
But the Lord is Faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
– 2 Thessalonians 3:3
LETS TALK STATISTICS
According to Mental Health America, before the pandemic (in 2019), 19.86% of adults experienced a mental illness which concludes to nearly 50 million Americans. Research highlights that depression is increasing among people with 19% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 experiencing major depression. The greatest concern is that only about 34% of those struggling with a mild-moderate mental illness and 50% of those struggling with serious mental illness actually receive treatment and support according to the National Alliance of Mental Health.
Though not everyone struggling has a specified mental illness, we have seen a huge increase in general mental health challenges in almost every household, including those of Christian families. Mental health challenges can consist of difficulty regulating emotions, increased anxiety, mild panic attacks, increased sadness, increased anger, relational conflicts, more isolation from loved ones, appetite control issues, sleep problems, substance abuse, little to no motivation, and more while still being able to function enough to go to work, school, and/or handle most daily tasks. Struggling with a mental health challenge is sometimes referenced as “staying above water, just enough to not drown.” Being in this state continuously can eventually lead someone into an episode of mental decline or even mental illness. Staying above water is not the type of life God calls us to. He wants more for us than that. Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit to be with us and provide us with guidance and peace; therefore, living in a continued place of trouble in our mind is not meant for us. We may go through difficult trials, but it should not consume us. God wants us to live in the fullness of His love and peace. He wants us to acknowledge that He has given us the Holy Spirit to walk with us on earth and that we should grab hold of Him.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
- John: 14:27
THE STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH FOR CHRISTIANS
Often, we as Christians believe that mental health illness and challenges are not prevalent in our communities of faith because we have God present in our lives everyday and our continued engagement in prayer, worship, bible study, fellowship, and service to others keeps us from experiencing such hardships in our mind. Although God is the most important part of our walk here on earth and every aspect of our connection to the Lord and community of believers is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind, we know that being a faithful Christian does not prevent us from experiencing battles in our mind. A matter a fact, the Lord knows this so well that He references the mind, our thought life, and our emotions heavily in His word. We also can read and learn in the bible about the struggles many men and women of God experienced throughout their life whether it was because of financial issues, negative perspectives, irrational thought processes, war, grief, divorce, deep sin, sadness, anger, physical disability, etc.
Data on mental health in the Christian community is clear that regular churchgoers experience less mental health complexities than non-churchgoers; nevertheless, the mental health struggle is prevalent and continues to rise for Christians. Let’s look further into the data regarding mental health in the Christian community. Lifeway research recently conducted multiple studies on mental health and the church and the information gathered emphasized the truth that even Christians struggle with mental health and could benefit from help. Take a moment to review the data below.
23% of pastors acknowledge they have personally struggled with a mental illness.
49% of pastors say they rarely or never speak to their congregation about mental illness.
27% of churches have a plan to assist families affected by mental illness.
65% of churchgoing family members of those with mental illness want their church to talk openly about mental illness.
59% of those actually suffering from mental illness say the same.
53% of churchgoers with mental illness say the church has been supportive.
76% of churchgoers say suicide is a problem that needs to be addressed in their community.
32% of churchgoers say a close acquaintance or family member has died by suicide.
80% of pastors say their church is equipped to assist someone who is threatening to take his or her own life.
92% of pastors say their church is equipped to care for the family that experiences the suicide of a loved one.
4% of churchgoers who lost a loved one to suicide say church leaders were aware of their loved one’s struggles.
68% of Americans feel they would be welcome in church if they were mentally ill.
35% of Americans say mental illness could be overcome with Bible study and prayer alone.
We rejoice in the fact that the data reported in many mental health research articles all point to the fact that Christians who are part of a community of faith report less mental health issues than those who do not attend church. Having an authentic relationship with the Lord and being connected to a community of faith is imperative to a healthy state of mind. Nevertheless, we need to acknowledge that the data also shows us that a significant number of Christian leaders, church members, and their families are struggling with poor mental health and that we are not talking enough about it.
Even though Christians are talking about mental health more these days and are contemplating and pursuing professional help and resources, we still see this tremendous gap between the needs and the help received. One of the greatest factors contributing to lack of treatment has to do with the stigma or shame attached to acknowledging that there is a problem and that there is a need to seek help. Other factors that contribute to people not getting the help that they so desperately need, has to do with lack of support, or little to no access to help which can be due to lack of financial or medical resources.
When we dive further into what stigma is we recognize it’s definition of being “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Some of the words associated with the word Stigma are shame, disgrace, dishonor, stain, taint, and blot. Stigma also involves negative attitudes or discrimination against someone based on a distinguishing characteristic such as a mental illness or a health complication. What stigma does is that it truly keeps people from being true and transparent in their struggle. Stigma keeps people from seeking wise counsel as the Lord instructs us to do. Stigma keeps people from healing, peace, and the freedom that the Lord brings.
For many, mental health struggles have been presented as something that is not of God and is a form of faithlessness, spiritual weakness, lack of devotion, lack of wisdom, or a spiritual attack. Although we know that all types of struggles can be associated with spiritual warfare, we can no longer afford to think that prayer alone will be the resolve in every single mental health challenge we face. We need prayer but we also need to read and understand the word of God and what it says about the MIND (thought life which affects emotions and actions) which is often referenced as the HEART in biblical scripture. We would benefit from leaning on others who are equipped to help us understand the mind and physical brain and the strategies that help to alleviate issues causing mental distress. Ultimately, the only thing that stigma does is that it keeps people from being true and transparent in their struggle. Stigma keeps people from seeking wise counsel as the Lord instructs us to do. Stigma keeps people from being strengthened, feeling more secure, and having victory in the Lord.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
GOD’S MESSAGE FOR YOU
It’s simple… there is no place for stigma in the kingdom of God. Jesus never shamed someone for needing help. We have to be careful not to allow the enemy to use shame as a tool to hold us captive in our mind and to prevent us from being truthful in our struggle so that we may receive help. Jesus understood the struggle that mankind experienced every day and He understood the power of our thoughts and emotions. His approach was never one of belittling or making people think that they were less than for their struggles. Jesus showed people compassion and love and special care when they were struggling. He wept with them, He listened, He spoke peace over their mind, He reminded them of who they were a child of. He encouraged those struggling to lean on the scriptures and on brothers and sisters in Christ for help. He directed us to rebuke the lies of the enemy that tell us that we are alone in our struggle. Even when we made our beds in the pit… the place of deep depression and darkness… the Lord is there with us.
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Mental health struggles are real and we all face them. Just as non-believers, Christians also struggle with managing emotions and thoughts and being a Christian does not keep us from experiencing such trials. The blessing that we have as believers is that we know who our father is and we know who we are in Christ. Our faith in the Lord, the word of God, and the Holy Spirit guides us and give us peace throughout those challenges, restores our hope, and connects us with people who are the hands and feet of Jesus and can help us through the mental health challenges we face.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
It’s ok not be feel ok and it’s ok to ask for help. Asking for help means you acknowledge that something is wrong and you are choosing to lean on all the help the Lord can send your way. You are not less than because you need help. You are simply real.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.