How can we support those with mental illness?
Living with mental illness can be overwhelming. Author Madeline Twooney writes how thoughts of despair, hopelessness, and fear can prey on you constantly. Here are some excerpts from her article on how we as a church family can best support those among us with mental illness. I’m grateful that we have five affiliated counselors at Grace, plus support groups that address mental health issues.
1. Keep church a safe place. Feeling comfortable and accepted in your church is a top priority for everyone. However, for a mental health sufferer, church is especially a refuge from what we perceive to be a hostile world. We struggle with everyday issues like leaving the house, going out to work, or even sitting among strangers on public transport. Depressive episodes can leave us feeling hopeless and in despair for days or even weeks at a time. It’s important that church is a safe place for us, a solid rock under our feet when the quicksand of fears and insecurities plague our lives.
2. Pray for those who struggle with mental illness. Last Sunday, a friend immediately offered to pray with me, after hearing that l had been having a difficult week with depression and headaches. That re-ignites my faith in the power of God to heal. It reminds me to keep my eyes on God when l hear the negative doctor’s reports or suffer from side effects of taking medication.
3. Befriend people struggling with mental illness. Offering fellowship to people with mental disorders will provide them with necessary companionship and help them practice social acclimatization. In short: we need friends. Therefore, if you know someone in your church who is struggling with mental illness, extend the hand of friendship towards them.
4. Share praise reports of how God has healed. Without my faith, l would drown in the murky pit of despair and hopelessness that chronic depression causes. Church needs to be a place that renews everyone’s faith – the sick, the healthy, the lost, and the saved. That way, we can stay constantly connected to the Source of our hope, joy, and salvation.