With mental health training church leaders can help their communities more than they know.
Most of us have friends who we can trust when the burden of our troubles become too heavy a load to carry. Christians often reach out to members of their pastoral care team or to close friends, while others choose to keep their problems to themselves.
Talking to someone is a great way to vent allowing for the release of some of that pressure. Friends can be really good listeners and advice givers, but depending on our circumstances and state of mental health at the time, they may not be able to give the right advice or point us in the right direction.
The church is uniquely positioned to help the community in difficult times as most believers will run to their church leaders for help. Mental health training will help support the congregation with issues like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder just to name a few.
THE WHOLE BEING
The bible is clear that humans are a three fold being consisting of a mind, body and spirit. When one of those is out of peace, the other two are affected. Keeping all three healthy is to find balance and wholeness.
“I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
Two Types of Crisis
Grief – Unfortunately the majority of us will suffer loss at one point in our lives and loss can lead to grief.
Some types of loss are: Substantial financial loss, death of a close relative or friend, loss of a job, divorce, separation and loss of a family home or death of a beloved pet.
Mental Health – People with a mental illness like depression or anxiety can have overwhelming emotions and feelings that often alter their thought processes leading them to overreact to normal everyday situations. Having lived all my life with the fortnightly roller-coaster of Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, it was a common occurrence to cry about problems during ovulation. After having my daughter in 2004, I became peri-menopausal and that’s when my symptoms, that included rage, became extreme.
Those who have a mental illness often find normal activities become overwhelming. For some this might mean the inability to function as they normally would, they can lose their jobs often leading to a loss of quality of life and isolation.
Those Who Have Helped & Supported Me
Counsellor, Gynaecologist & Doctor – good listeners & resourceful – The best help so far for PMDD. My GP sent me to a gynaecologist who recognised my symptoms. He put me on a birth control pill (Norimin) suggesting I cut out the sugar tablets so to stop my menses completely, thus stopping what happens to my brain during that time when receptors shut down causing a depletion of my happy hormones. I was also put on anti-depressants (Pristiq). This helped me to function normally only to experience mild symptoms of PMDD now and again. The counsellor helped me to organise myself mentally in order to help me with my circumstances. Finally I was beginning to function normally.
Family & Close Friends – Advice differed according to personalities, religious views, professions and some of those with mental health training (My two sisters) listened and then pointed me in the right direction. Untrained friends lacked the ability to help me with my mental health problems which to them was foreign.
Pastoral care – Able to help me with personal and spiritual problems but when my mental illness was kicking in with intense bouts of depression that left me crying for hours nonstop, my thoughts were dark and gloomy and it seemed like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. My pastoral care team were untrained to recognise symptoms of mental health problems; they didn’t know what to do apart from praying for me, which was great for me as I was hoping for a miracle. But, miracles don’t always come when you want them to and it’s not through a lack of your personal faith. God’s timing for your life is perfect. When a person is physically sick they go to see a doctor. A person who has mental health problems needs counselling support.
That’s why I believe in mental health training for all church leaders. Knowing the difference can make all the difference to a person in need. Christians who have mental health disorders need to know that they are supported within the church, be pointed to mental health support services and resources when needed and they also need to know that they’re no less a Christian for being mentally unwell.
The body is all interconnected. If our bodies can get sick, then the mind is no exception. Caring for the three fold being, mind, body and spirit leads to wholeness.
PEN WITH A VIEW
Where to get help in Australia
Talk to your doctor who can point you in the right direction if you feel that you have a mental health issue. You might be able to qualify for a mental health plan.
Lifeline – A free 24 hour crisis counselling service – 13 11 14
Mens Line – A free 24 hour counselling service for men – 1300 78 99 78
Kids Help Line – Email Counselling and Web-chat available – 1800 55 1800