How The Church Can Handle Depression
Depression is a hot topic for Christians suddenly, after rather tragic events over the weekend. Faced with the reality of how depression can tear apart family, drag down a person with a promising future, and sometimes lead to a life cut short too soon.
Understanding how to offer proper support both personally and as a church community can be imperative to helping a depressed person keep the faith as well as helping point them towards resources for their mental illness.
What does proper support look like? Support for depression comes in the form of acceptance, love, and caring. Mental Health Grace Alliance pinpointed four ways churches can respond to the disease that may be plaguing members of their congregation.
The first step is always trying to reach understanding. Looking to counselors, psychologist, and respected opinions on the topic is a great way to begin seeing depression as a real disorder. Education about a disease is the main fight to helping those dealing with mental health issues find the support they need. Lack of education can lead to neglect of treatment, lack of support, and often unhelpful beliefs or misunderstandings about what the disease is.
Surprisingly, Mental Grace Health Alliance doesn’t believe the time after diagnosis of depression is the time to be pushing religion more strongly, though that is the first instinct of many believers. Withdrawing from the church is not a healthy step, but neither is trying to force someone dealing with mental health to do more spiritual activities or try to use religious texts to explain the condition.
Pushing religion too heavily in a time of struggle can lead to disillusionment or feelings of inadequacy, especially when we try to explain the condition through biblical means. Keeping the support of the church involved is an important step, but keep it restrained to support rather than active ministering or trying to push someone struggling further into the church. Offer events they can come to where they will be surrounded by a loving congregation and hear the loving, healing word of the lord, but don’t force them to come or make them feel unnecessarily obligated.
Support can come in different ways. There is practical support, such as volunteering to take care of tasks that may go unmanaged while struggling with mental illness such as offering food or mowing the lawn. Another practical form of support is direction to counseling or mental health assistance. There are many faith based counselors out there to help those with mental illness within the church. There is also emotional support that rises from understanding and empathizing with the emotional struggle.
It is important to remember your role when trying to support someone with mental illness. Trying to solve mental illness when you aren’t a trained counselor or psychologist can be damaging, just as forcing religion on a struggling person can actually lead them away from faith. Just try to be there for the person with mental health issues, provide a sense of warmth and love, and lightly keep them reminded of the restoring nature of the lord.