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Mental health matters

Updated: Jun 29

This column is about mental health. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, or want to assist someone else in such a situation, call or text 988 for resources and support. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Those words of Psalm 138 can speak to so many situations in life. From serious illness and crisis to everyday tasks and challenging conversations, we can call upon the Lord and find help.

That is a conviction of faith, but it can be hard for people to believe. Those who struggle with mental health issues experience this dynamic of tested trust. Mental health conditions are not one single thing; like medical diagnoses, there is a range of issues that can affect a person, and interventions and treatments naturally vary with the need. Everyone has bad days and periods of time that we feel down. Yet especially with long-term, chronic conditions of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, or other conditions, finding help and hope can be elusive.

Such conditions can affect people of every age, social status, educational background, ethnicity, and faith tradition. No one is immune from mental health challenges, and various forms of help are available.

Adding to the sufferings of many of these struggles is the power of stigma – that somehow these conditions are the person’s fault, or display a lack of willpower or spiritual maturity or a host of other false ideas. Those around them can view them as damaged, dangerous, unreliable, unpredictable. Or maybe most often, we just don’t know how to help them or interact with them, and so we avoid them, adding to their isolation and pain. Education and deeper understanding are a first key step.

There is growing attention to and support for mental health services in our ACC and our diocese. For resources, prayer suggestions, and available services, please see:

From that webpage:

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. As one slogan states: “If you have a brain, you have mental health.”

Mental illnesses are health conditions involving the brain. They include significant changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities.

Further, for a parish or ACC to offer a “mental health ministry” does not mean we provide clinical services or enter a complex field where professional skills are essential. Instead:

Faith institutions, by their foundational principles, are in the position to play a critical role in the mental health of their communities. Acceptance and support from a person’s faith community is key, not only to their potential healing, but also to creating a

greater awareness of God’s love through the community that surrounds them. Often, those struggling with a mental illness feel disconnected

from the community. Feelings of rejection by their church may also lead to feelings of rejection by God. Accepting a person for who they are reflects God’s unconditional love for us.

Mental health ministry is not about solving someone’s problems, but rather listening and accompanying individuals on their journey. Human dignity is also at the heart of how we think and speak of others who battle a mental illness.

Through the presence of family, friends and other meaningful relationships, along with a welcoming community of faith, we can help suffering from a mental illness know the blessings and grace of a loving God who is always with them.

We are slowly working towards this vision in our ACC.

Many of you offer this support and care already to one another; thank you. Please keep all those who face mental health challenges in your daily prayers.

On the day we call for help, God will answer; and sometimes part of that answer is our care, compassion, listening, and presence.

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