Presently, I am reading a book by Amy Simpson titled Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and The Church’s Mission. Next Thursday, October 10, is mental health awareness day. Mental health is a subject dear to my heart and affects my life with me being a guardian to three adult siblings with mental illnesses. I thought I would write about it.
According to the National Institute o f Mental Health website accessed by Simpson in 2012, “Mental disorders are the number one cause for disability in North America with one in four Americans over the age of 18 suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year” (Simpson, 2012, p. 33). I admit I’m surprise by the numbers and think about it from a view that if a church has 100 adult members then 25 are or have suffered from a mental disorder. Fear, shame, and stigma may stop them and their family members from talking about it and asking for help. A question that weights significantly on my mind is, how do we help them as a church?
I try my best to turn to the Bible and Christian resources for answers. Matthew 22:36-40 states, Jesus’s greatest commandments is to love God and love people. Does this commandment exclude mentally challenge people or anyone else for that matter? Are not all people God’s image-bearers? Some are just more broken inside but still worthy of Christian love and help. Simpson states that people feel helpless, even fearful of mental illness; therefore, they do nothing. I believe this is caused by not knowing how to help people with mental illnesses along with the lack of accurate information and misconceptions about mental illness. I agree with Simpson (2012) when she implies, we can do better, we can be more like the church we are made to be.
We should start by putting on love as stated in Colossians 3:12-17 with clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Then we should start loving everyone regardless of who they are and what they are? This means we should educate ourselves about mental disorders and other social issues enough to break the cycle of fear and stigma within the church. After all, we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) to show the love of Christ in us to all people.
Simpson, A. (2012). Troubled minds: Mental illness and the church’s mission. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Note: The National Institute of Mental Health website statistics today states, “In 2017, there were an estimated 46.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness (AMI). This number represented 18.9% of all U.S. adults.” (About one in five Americans) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml