Let me start by prefacing everything I am getting ready to say by saying I have been raised in a Baptist Church my ENTIRE life. And when I say entire life that’s exactly what I mean. THE SAME CHURCH ALL 28 YEARS. Both of my parents were raised in church, my father being extremely active in church. I am not a Preacher’s Kid but I was basically raised like one. So, that’s my church/spiritual background.
My Mental Health history...big sigh...I believe it has always been an issue. Suicidal ideations started at a young age but it wasn’t until I got much older when I realized what was really going on. I am also a therapist.
I have never felt comfortable sharing with the church my mental health struggles. It is hard enough talking to people about it as it is. The Black family and definitely the Black church is great at shunning and ignoring things that we do not understand. Similar to what we have done with homosexuality. We are quick to say it’s just the devil and you have to resist him, you just need some holy oil. But these are real issues!!! And this is just with depression, anxiety, postpartum...the softer diagnoses. Start talking about the serious stuff like Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder) and Schizophrenia and they really shut down! It can begin to feel like you are the issue and it is something that you are not doing right in your spiritual journey to make it go away.
It is annoying getting those cliche answers when you are really needing help.
So how can you be of help instead?
- Ask how you can help them.
Ask what you can do to make things a little easier for them. More than likely they will say “nothing” because in that state everything seems hopeless. Try to get them to come up with at least one thing and actually do that thing as best as you can. The more they feel they can trust you the more it can ease those stressors.
- Just be there
Sometimes talking is not the answer. Sometimes your friend may just need someone to sit with them. Not ask questions. Not push them to talk. Just be a presence in the room. Bring some wine or their favorite snack and start the binge watching.
- Pray for them
It doesn't have to be an elaborate devil binding ceremony but just praying for God to comfort them and give them what they need and be what you can't be. Pray for your own discernment on how to help.
To those who are struggling with mental illness try to identify at least one person that can relate or at least that you can be open with. Someone who is not judgmental that you trust. I know that can be hard. I still struggle with opening up to people, especially about my mental health. That is why I started talking about mental health on my blog. I want it to be a place where people can share safely and see that they are not alone. I also talk very transparently about faith on my blog and say the things many people think but won’t say. I am very passionate about both topics. If you are struggling feel free to reach out to me. Reach out to someone and get the help that you deserve. Being raised in the church I know to pray, I know to read my Bible...what I need is HELP! It sounds terrible to say, I know. It sounds like you are saying that you need more than God but that’s not necessarily what we mean. It’s like telling someone who is grieving that “everything is going to be okay”. Oh yea, the church does that too. Telling me “they are in a better place” does not make the pain go away unfortunately. It doesn’t bring that person back when I feel like I have no one else to talk to.
Should Jesus be enough? Of Course! Is He enough? Definitely. The point though is for those who identify with this to see that they are not alone in their struggles and those who do not identify to see mental health through a different light.
I was talking to someone in church once about being anxious about something and what do you think their first response was? “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. Philippians 4:6 (NKJV). I really wish it was that simple...to not be anxious about anything. Sometimes I don’t even know what I am anxious about...it only complicates things. Prayer definitely does help me get through my days but what I would like the church to understand is that sometimes your quick jump to Scripture can be more harmful than helpful. It can make that person not want to talk to you about their struggles anymore, isolating them which only makes things worse. Just be thoughtful in your responses.
If you are having suicidal thoughts or would like more information on how to help someone who is please call 1(800) 273-TALK (8255).