Many of you commented on and shared my recent blog post, “Could Robin Williams’ Faith Have Prevented His Suicide?”
That’s not surprising because mental illness directly impacts about one in four individuals… yet sadly, it sometimes seems that the Christian community doesn’t talk about the issue as often and as thoroughly we should.
Focus on the Family is hoping to help change that by helping families and churches better understand topics related to mental health – things like depression, bipolar and schizophrenia.
A deeper look at mental health and faith
We recently partnered with LifeWay Research on the groundbreaking “Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith.” Through interviews with pastors and Christian individuals diagnosed with acute mental illness, we were able to gain insight into what people suffering from these conditions experience during their faith journey.
Here are just a few of our findings:
- Impacted individuals and their families deal with a significant amount of shame and social stigma.
- Many assume the person has “done” something to cause the illness.
- There are too many parents whose children suffer from mental illness that deal with denial and grief.
- We also learned that, in most cases, the illness needs stabilizing before spiritual growth will take place – but on the other hand, strong faith does not make a mental illness go away.
Equipping churches and families
As we examined the church’s response to mental health issues, we saw that while many churches are providing good support to families, there is much more left to do. As believers, we have an incredible opportunity we have to minister to men, women and children impacted by mental illness.
The good news is a majority of pastors (56 percent) strongly agree local churches have a responsibility to support both individuals with mental illness and their families.
In order to help pastors help these families, Focus’ Thriving Pastor outreach is offering a free e-book, “Serving Those with Mental Illness.” This resource provides church leaders with a summary of the LifeWay Research/Mental Health Study. It also provides an overview of three ways pastors will most likely encounter people with mental illness – and offers guidelines to help them handle each scenario. Finally, the booklet helps pastors identify mental illness and make effective referrals for Christian counseling. You can learn more by visiting http://www.thrivingpastor.com/mentalhealth/.
And of course, if you or a family member are in need of counseling, I hope you’ll consider calling us. Focus has licensed counselors ready to listen and provide initial guidance and resources. You can arrange to speak with one of our counselors at no cost by calling us at 1-855-771-4357.