We recently hosted a seminar on mental health issues. It is such an important topic for us to understand and respond to as Christians because we are all impacted, either directly or indirectly. You can watch it here: http://www.hopechurch.co.uk/mentalhealth/
Statistics that state one in four people will have a mental health issue every year, and that includes in our congregations. A new book, ‘Freed From Shame’ looks at what mental health and ill-health is, contains real-life stories from Christians struggling with various mental health issues and suggestions for churches and individuals supporting people.
Here’s Peter‘s story, as told in the book:
“For years I was told I had depression and was treated as such, but nothing ever improved. It took a long while to get a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD affects people differently, e.g. hand-washing, cleaning, putting things in order. For me it‘s routines. I have certain ways of doing things and if I‘m disrupted or something goes wrong, I need to start again. Routines help me feel safe and along with my medication I can manage my day-to-day life reasonably well.
“On bad days, however, when things go wrong I go into a downward spiral and I can‘t cope. I find it hard to sleep, withdraw from everyone, become insular and start to plan ending my life – it‘s so hard to escape those thoughts once I‘m there.
“Church has helped me as I have found people who understand. Once you get to know someone you can learn their trigger points, and what happens on their bad days so you have a chance to rescue them. Recently I withdrew and wasn‘t answering calls; a friend remembered this was what happened when I was feeling suicidal, so came to my door and when there was no answer he called the police. I had tried to take my life but thankfully it hadn‘t worked.
“You never think you would end up like this – mental illness can happen to anyone. It‘s not what I expected in life but I have to learn to live with it. The one thing that helps me and that‘s with Jesus in my life I‘m never alone. The most important advice I‘d give to people wanting to support someone with a mental health issue is listen properly – look behind the mask that a person puts on to protect themselves, and listen to what they have to say. Once you get to know them you have a chance to help them.”
As we understand more about mental health issues and seek to truly love, support and encourage people, don’t we long to see the church becoming the safest place for those with mental illnesses to find the love and compassion of Christ, to find hope? A place where people are freed from shame.
The book can be purchased from http://freedfromshame.co.uk/
Written by Tony Thompson