There is Hope . . . No Matter What

Why is May National Mental Health Awareness Month? Perhaps it’s because more than any other time of the year, spring is when we witness all of nature explode with new life and growth following the cold, gray days of winter. Springtime offers hope and the promise of better days ahead.

Recently I was listening to my favorite Christian radio station and heard the song, No Matter What by Ryan Stevenson. I’ve heard the song before, but this time I heard it with fresh ears, especially the words, “But I want you to know, there’s still a hope for you now.” Maybe that’s the message for Mental Health Awareness Month, there’s hope for us now. . . no matter what.

And what better place to share that message, especially for people living with mental health challenges, than the church? The Christian message is all about hope! What can the church say about mental health issues, you ask?

Well, in the church we can acknowledge 20-25% (or more) of our people are living with a mental health challenge but rarely speak openly about it. The church can reduce the stigma around mental illness by talking about it, praying about it and dispelling the myth mental illness is the result of “a lack of faith.”

The month of May is a great time to remind people living with mental illness that there is hope . . . no matter what!

Not long ago a friend introduced me to John Swinton, department chair of divinity and religious studies at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. In an article he recently wrote entitled, “Doing Small Things with Extraordinary Love,” he writes:

“The church is not called to do extraordinary things; it is called to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. In response to the complexities of the experience of mental health problems, the church’s vocation is not to become a community of psychiatrists. Rather, it is called to become a community of disciples who strive to embody and reveal God’s extraordinary love. What kind of impact could it have if, instead of fretting about how we can help to control or cure a person’s experiences (important as that may be in certain situations), we invited people with mental health problems to speak to us about what it actually feels like to go through such experiences. I suspect that is the approach that Jesus would take – love first, then listen and always try to understand.”

Clearly the message of the church is for people to know there is hope and love for us all . . . no matter what.

When challenged with responding to such issues in the church, it’s common to wonder, where do I start? What do I do? What resources are available to help address this topic? I have a few suggestions:

First, register for SpeakUp Training. Our next SpeakUp Training session, designed for pastors, ministry leaders, and lay people in congregations, will focus on suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. Karen Mason and Glen Bloomstrom will integrate what the Bible says and what science tells us about preventing suicide, intervening with suicide and what to do following a suicide. Additionally, you will learn how to recognize suicidal thinking, how to help a person considering suicide and standard protocols for your church following a suicide attempt or death by suicide. By the end of the session, you will be ready with practical steps to benefit your ministry and the people God calls you to serve.

Additionally, be sure to look at Mental Health Ministries, which offers a wealth of resources for the local church, especially you will want to see this month’s MHM e-Spotlight Spring 2018. Here you will find articles and suggestions to give attention to mental health issues in your congregation not only this month, but year round. Also, Pathways to Promise is another excellent source for mental health awareness resources to be used in your church.

Why would the local church pay attention to National Mental Health Awareness Month? Because, what better place than the local church to offer to all people, especially people living with mental health challenges, there is love and hope for us all. . . no matter what.

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