Last month, as we celebrated “World’s Mental Health Awareness Month”, I read an article where a seventy year old man committed suicide, sending his family and community into grief and leaving them in shock.
In the article, it stated that the elderly man who also served as a deacon in his church, had recently lost his father and was grieving. In addition to that, he was having challenges with his siblings.
The article, though a sad one, allowed me to reflect on the importance of good mental health. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act.” Mental health is no joke and as I reflect on the article about the elderly man, I am reminded of a few things that I want to share.
Mental health is not age specific
Whenever I hear of someone over the age of sixty-five committing suicide, for one reason or another I am always surprised. However, the truth is that mental health affects everyone regardless of age, gender or race. Life can be hard sometimes and the different challenges we face on our journey can affect us in different ways, some more severely than others.
What is important during these times, is that we know that we are not alone, even when we feel like it! God is with us and he understands all the emotional, psychological, social and even the physical challenges we face that can affect our mental health. We are never too old or too young to call upon the name of our Lord. Also, we should never consider ourselves too old or too young to seek help if we feel that what we are going through is unbearable.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy chapter 31 verse 8)
Spiritual maturity does not mean that you are exempt from mental health challenges
One of thepurposes behind the challenges we face is for growth to take place and as a result, in order to grow, we will encounter challenges.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James chapter 1 versus 2 to 4)
Sometimes we believe that the more mature we become in Christ, we will face less challenges. That is certainly not true because God will use our challenges to carve qualities within us that reflect His Son, and as we are shaped into Christ’s image we learn how to look to Him and lean on Him instead of our own ways and understanding.
Also, too often, we forget that our spiritual leaders are humans and will face challenges as well. We expect for them to always be ready and available to meet our spiritual needs without taking into consideration that they may need time to relax or take a mental break. It is important for us to pray for our leaders. Many times they are facing battles we do not know about.
What to do
Seek Help. We are not meant to go through life by ourselves. We need others and the good news is that everyone needs a little help sometimes. Therefore, if you are going through a difficult time and you feel it may affect your mental health, seek help. Speak with a trusted relative or friend or get professional help if required.
Be supportive. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians chapter 6 verse 2)
If you know someone is having challenges and their mental health may be affected and you can help, then offer your support. It is important to note though that while you offer your support, to keep in mind that people deal with mental health challenges differently.
For example, if I am grieving a loss, I may want to be alone and spend my days crying and sleeping; another person may overindulge in drinking while yet another may drown himself in work. It is therefore pertinent to observe those around you so that you can be aware of any change in behaviour.
Being supportive does not have to be anything grand. It can be a kind word, sending messages or calling to let that person know that you are there for them. It can be going on a walk with the person. It can be visiting them, even if it is to sit in silence; your presence will speak for itself.
As we support those around us, we must ensure that they know that we are there for them and that they have our support. We must ensure too that we do not shame them or blame them for what is happening, because this may cause them to push us away or have a mental breakdown. Instead, if you must criticize, do so constructively with love.
Mental health, if left unchecked, can lead to depression and even suicide. Do what you can to protect your mental health and that of those around you. Always remember that God is close to the broken-hearted and cares for them.
Therefore, we can always turn to our father knowing that His thoughts towards us are good. And never be afraid to seek help if needed or offer your support when you see someone struggling.
Rose-Ann Durant is a young Christian from Kingston, Jamaica, who is currently living in Barbados. She is the 2021 Basil Sellers International (18-30) Awardee and in August 2021, became a contributing writer for Victorious By Design, a digital and print media group that seeks to encourage women of all ages to walk victoriously into all that God has called them. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, going to the beach, river, and spending time outdoors.