Understanding Mental Health In The Church
The Stigma about mental health or mental illness still strongly exists in both our country and the churches. People are ashamed and uncomfortable talking about mental illness. There are many church members struggling and suffering in silence. Historically, the church tends to handle mental health issues by ignoring it, treating it exclusively as a spiritual problem, or referring church members to professionals with no support. Church leaders need to be mindful of the fact that nearly every person sitting in the pews has been touched in some way by mental illness. In a given year, nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness. Because of that stat, it is very important that church leaders understand and are aware of how to help members with mental health issues.
Mental illness can occur when the brain or part of the brain is not functioning well. When the brain is not working the way it is supposed to work, certain functions will be disrupted. For example, thinking, perception, emotion, signaling, physical, and behavior functions can be impaired. The causes of mental illness are complicated. However, studies show that genetics, environment, lifestyle influence, and brain disorder can cause mental illness. Many people who have a mental illness do not want to talk about it. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a medical condition, just like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Mental health conditions are treatable, manageable, and preventable. Mental health illness is not a personal failure and it does not discriminate. Mental health can affect anyone regardless of your age, gender, social status, race/ethnicity, background, or other aspect. It can also take many forms. Some mental health conditions are fairly mild and only interfere in limited ways with daily life and other conditions are so severe that a person may need care in a hospital.
When To Help?
If you see a family member, church member, or yourself having the following symptoms, it is recommended to seek a mental health professional for treatment and support.
- Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
- Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
- Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
- Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
- Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity.
- Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.
- Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
- Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
- Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
- Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care.
- Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings.
How to Stop Mental Health Stigma In The Church?
- Avoid offensive language (i.e. calling people with mental health issues psycho, crazy, nuts, freak, weirdo, wacko, etc.).
- Do not be insensitive or blame people with mental illness.
- Discuss mental health issues from the pulpit, prayer meetings, and in leadership meetings.
- If you see someone struggling with the above symptoms, encourage that person to get help from the community or school if that person is a student.
- Do not feel ashamed to go and talk to Pastor Feder or Pastor Dalzon for compassion support and to provide you with proper referrals for treatment.
- Educate yourself and others about mental health issues. Acknowledge that mental health issues are complicated in nature. It is a brain condition that involves biological, psychological, developmental, societal, spiritual, and familial components.
Where to Get Help?
This is a list of Christian therapists and counselors in NJ where you can seek help and find a professional to talk to:
Insight Christian Counseling and Coaching
Christ Centered Family Counseling and Coaching
King of Hearts Christian Counseling Center, LLC
Grace Abounds Counseling, LLC
Life Changing Christian Counseling
Multifaith and Multicultural Counseling Group