Pastor’s Column: Why We Need to Tackle Mental Health in the Church
At Transform Minnesota, we believe the Church needs to tackle mental health. Our Spring 2018 Transform Ideas forum is focusing on a faith-filled response to mental health and recovery.
This is a personal testimony from Pastor Ned Eerdmans of CrossRoads Church in Fergus Falls. With strength and vulnerability, Pastor Ned shares his story of battling severe anxiety that crippled him, his marriage and his identity. How he found help and hope in his diagnosis through treatment, honesty and prayer.
I was experiencing something I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand the thoughts that made me question everything. At the time, I was experiencing great success at church, my children were establishing their lives independently, and my wife was pursuing healthy personal and career goals. Yet, I began to fall into a dark state of anxiety, erratic behavior and profound sleeplessness. I began to question my life, my career, my marriage, and even my faith. I got to the point that this toxic cocktail of competing and intense feelings were too much for me to handle. I considered how I could erase myself from family photos fearing what may come next.
Didn’t I know something was wrong? Why didn’t I get help when faced with such profound symptoms of mental illness? The short answer is: shame and pride. I believed that reaching out for help would expose me. I feared such an admission would lead to rejection by my wife and kids and immediately terminate my pastorate. I believed that there is restoration for pastors for all sorts of sins, but mental illness would be an unforgivable and disqualifying label.
Finally, after six weeks of sleeplessness and personal deterioration, I reached out to a physician in our congregation. He showed great care and immediately connected me with mental health professionals I needed to diagnose my illness and plan my recovery. After a year of medicinal, spiritual and emotional therapy, I began to feel myself again. Yet, something important had changed. During counseling, I had to take inventory of my life. I realized that many of my attitudes toward people had been very self-centered and immature. Prior to my illness, I had presented symptoms of mental illness. But also, I had been uncaring and mean spirited toward my wife, self-impressed with my successes, impatient with the flaws and failures of others and resentful of people in our congregation. Clearly, my illness presented an opportunity to grow and change in the very areas that carried my deepest fears.
In the years since, I am thankful that my medication brought relief to my symptoms, my doctor has been attentive and understanding, my marriage has experienced renewal and our church has a more caring and connected pastor. And yet, I am under no illusion. My illness is not cured. It is managed. God has shown grace and strength each day and I am eternally thankful. I am also thankful to share my story with pastors. I believe that a healthy understanding of mental illness among our churches and denominational leaders will not only be enlightening, but also it will eventually save lives. A diagnosis of mental illness followed by appropriate treatment is not the end of everything. It may be only the beginning.
To watch more of Ned Eerdmans’ testimony Confessions, Musings and Learnings of a Long-Term Pastor.
Find out more about Awakening the Church to Mental Health: A Faith Filled Response to Mental Illness and Recovery
This Transform Ideas forum will address the calling of the Church to care for people and their families who are struggling with common mental health concerns. We will explore the physiological and spiritual aspects of mental and emotional health.
Experts will discuss the role of medical intervention alongside prayer and scripture, and ways to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. Come hear courageous personal stories of lives deeply affected by mental illness, and learn how the Church can best offer hope and support to someone with mental health issues.