Awakening the Church to Mental Health
Panel of Perspectives
Nearly 400 people attended Transform Ideas: Awakening the Church to Mental Health at Hope Community Church on April 19, 2018. With a diverse line-up of speakers, this public forum offered a wide variety of perspectives; from the clinical to the personal and the spiritual.
“It’s easy with mental illness to get distracted by your emotions and feelings; but they are broken. We need to go back and see God for who He is and what He’s done for us,” said Rob Warland, Ministry Associate at Hope Community Church, who shared about his personal struggle with mental illness.
“I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety in my own life, and mental health has never been talked about in church before. I thought if it was never talked about, it probably wasn’t good. There needs to be more conversation about it,” said J.P., an attendee.
Seeing an Image Bearer of God
Cherie Monge shared about her son’s mental illness, and how the Church can better support her son.
“Church, value my son as an image bearer of God who can contribute to the rich community, and has a hope and a future in the kingdom. Church, make a place for him to belong. Be a community that grants my son dignity, and helps direct his destiny,” said Monge.
Cherie encouraged the Christian community to also be a place of respite for caretakers of those with mental illness or whose family members lost the battle to suicide.
“We need silent prayers that come from compassion, not comparison. We need a warm embrace, a meal, an invitation, a safe place, a village, a loving community that takes the time to understand,” Monge said.
“I lost a child to suicide, so I had a front row seat to it all. This forum gave me a bigger hope for the Church in addressing mental illness,” said Tim, an attendee.
Having God’s Heart
A high school guidance counselor spoke on the increasing rates of anxiety and depression among teenagers, and their hesitancy to get help due to the stigmatization of mental illnesses.
A clinical social worker from Nystrom and Associates shared a powerful list of Dos and Don’ts for the Church in addressing mental health; and urged Christians to stop judging or condemning people with mental illness.
“We need to approach people with God’s heart. People with mental illness want the same things that the rest of us want; they want to belong, they want to be in a community, they want to have meaning and purpose, they want to connect and serve. God is calling the Church to love them, and minister to them,” said Sarah Gross, MSW, LICSW, Nystrom and Associates.
“Sadly, I don’t think the church has done a great job of touching on mental illness in that past. Talking about mental illness can be uncomfortable, and it’s uncomfortable to walk alongside someone through it, it takes a lot of love,” said Maddie, an attendee.
How Jesus Responded to Mental Illness
Gross shared how the Church should not try to treat or demonize people’s mental illness, but instead should refer people to trained therapists. And as the body of Christ, we should respond to those with mental illness like Jesus did.
“Jesus responded with compassion, he touched them. You don’t have to be an oncologist to care for those with cancer, the same is true for mental illness. We need all God’s ways of healing: loving and touching people, we need medical intervention, lifestyle changes, prayer, and community,” said Gross.
“The Church is uniquely equipped to minister hope and healing to those with mental illness, because we are directly tapped into the wonderful counselor, the great physician,” said Gross.
Videos of the Talks:
Made in the Image of God – Sarah Gross, MSW, LICSW, Nystrom and Associates
Mental Health in Schools – Quincy Davis, School Counselor at Eastview High School
See My Son – Cherie Monge, Administrative Assistant, Bethel Christian Fellowship
The Battle Between Awe and Apathy – Rob Warland, Ministry Associate at Hope Community Church