Mental Health Month 2019: Christian Resources
October is Mental Health Month in NSW, a time to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing, particularly on or around World Mental Health Day on 10 October.
This is also a great opportunity for Christians to encourage positive and open conversations about mental health and wellbeing in churches.
While mental illness may immediately spring to mind, mental health actually refers to a person’s emotional, cognitive (thinking) and social wellbeing, good or bad.
God created us and values us as thinking, feeling and relational beings, as well as physical ones, so caring for all of ourselves and all of each other includes our mental health and wellbeing.
For some people that will also include managing a mental health disorder, whether for a period of time or for their lifetime.
Normalising conversations about mental health and learning how to support someone experiencing mental health challenges are two practical ways to love one another and create church communities that are caring, open and non-judgemental.
In Australia, almost half (45 per cent) of people aged 16–85 years will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime, while 20 per cent of people will have a diagnosable mental illness in any one year.
Anxiety disorders are the most common, affecting an estimated 14.4 per cent of the population, followed by affective disorders such as depression and substance abuse disorders at 6.2 per cent and 5.1 per cent, respectively.
Children and teenagers are also impacted, with approximately 1 in 7 (13.9 per cent) aged 4–17 years having a mental health disorder each year. ADHD, anxiety disorders, major depressive disorders and conduct disorder are the most common.
These statistics might refer to the general population, but there’s no reason to believe that the church is any different. That means, at any one time, approximately 1 in 5 of the people sitting with you at church are experiencing mental illness.
When you add in the number of people who care for, live with or support family members and friends with mental health disorders, the number of those affected grows.
Mental health resources:
In light of Mental Health Month, Anglican Deaconess Ministries (ADM) has produced a collection of Christian resources for churches to promote conversation and reduce stigma for those living with mental health challenges.
This includes a video series with 10 personal stories around the theme of mental health from a Christian perspective. You can view the trailer below.
The personal stories are a mix of those who have struggled with mental health disorders and others who have had contact with people experiencing mental illness, whether as a health professional, parent or minister.
While the stories are great to listen to, please be aware that some of them contain reference to issues which may trigger troubling feelings, thoughts or memories, particularly if you’ve had similar experiences – so look after yourself!
Tips on how to support someone:
ADM has also provided 10 tips to support someone struggling with their mental health. We recommend downloading the full resource here to understand each point in more detail and see examples of what that particular support might look like.
- Ask how they are feeling
- Listen to what they say
- Be a safe person for them
- Check that they are safe
- Seek professional help if needed
- Ask if you can read God’s word and pray
- Encourage wise behaviour
- Follow them up
- Put appropriate boundaries in place
- Take care of yourself
Psalms of lament:
ADM suggests reading psalms of lament as a way to acknowledge mental health struggles as part of the brokenness of this world, as well as express trust and faith in God. Psalm 88:3–6, 18 says:
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths…
You have taken from me friend and neighbour—
darkness is my closest friend.
As well as Psalm 88, they recommend Psalms 6, 38, 39, 42 & 43, 102, 130 and 143 as potentially being appropriate.
As with everything, prayer is vital, whether praying for your own mental health struggles (if you’re able) or for someone else’s.
ADM has provided a range of prayers for those who are experiencing poor mental health, or for those supporting or caring for people with mental health struggles. You can download the prayers here.
If you are looking for further resources, they also have a list of Christian books on the theme of mental health and links to some online Christian resources which can be downloaded here.
The following phone numbers may also be useful in an emergency, however if you or someone else are in danger, call 000.
- Lifeline 13 11 14 — Crisis support and suicide prevention service.
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 — Phone and online service for those at risk of suicide, carers for someone who is suicidal and those bereaved by suicide.
- NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 — 24-hour telephone service that puts you in touch with your local mental health service, including the mental health crisis or acute care team if necessary.