Counseling is not anti-Jesus.
Medication is not anti-Jesus.
Psychology is not anti-Jesus.
Learning about your emotions is not anti-Jesus.
— Robert Vore, Young Adult Therapist
India leads the world in teenage depression with 1 in 4 teenagers suffering from depression (WHO). One student dies by suicide every hour in India. The time for the church to address mental health came decades ago. When we acknowledge that the likelihood of our youth also being part of those statistics is high, we will no more need to pretend that depression does not occur amongst our youth. Mental health is the key to personal well-being, relationships, and contribution to community, and depression has the power to take all that away.
When was the last time your church talked about Mental Health? In the past, any form of mental illness came with stigma and a ton of misinformation. Thankfully, the world at large and many churches are gradually sensitizing itself to the truth about mental health by fostering dialogue and making it easier for people to get help.
In addition to being a safe place for the hurting, the church is uniquely positioned to dispel misunderstandings and reduce stigma associated with mental illness and treatment, as well as facilitate access to treatment for those in need. Pastor and author, Rick Warren, in the aftermath of his son’s suicide, said to his congregation, “There is no shame in diabetes, there is no shame in high blood pressure, but why is it that if our brains stop working, there is supposed to be shame in that?”
Young people are turning up at youth group meetings and school counselor offices to talk about their panic attacks, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Churches have to be alert and equipped to identify them — to not only pray with them but to also provide practical steps to start healing from where they’re hurting.
The Christian medical community and spiritual leaders need to learn from each other and increase their understanding of the role of both spirituality and science in the recovery of mental health. Addressing mental health in the church is to be prayerfully sensitive and find the connection between spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being in order to help our youth. More than ever, this generation of Millennials are open to help and are looking for people who genuinely care for them and are interested in their well-being.
“People who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways,” says renowned clinical psychologist, Dr. Russell Barkley. Churches need to teach about brokenness, on how to handle stress and struggles, and most importantly, let the young people know how much God loves them and values them. They need to know that their true worth comes from God — their Father, their Creator, their Lover and their Healer.