See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.

1 John 3:1 NLT


If our Father in Heaven loves us enough to call us his children, should we not call each other brothers and sisters? We are equally loved by our Father God. Can we equally love each other?

Today I would like to address the question: What’s holding people back from true friendship with those who have mental health conditions? Maybe the cause we suspect is not stigma at all, but a fear of the symptoms. Symptoms can be hard to accept. Often friendship doesn’t even get off the ground because of a fear of unstable thinking or behavior in the person with mental health issues. (Notice all the fears, once more?)

To keep things simple, I have described people without mental health problems as “healthy.” It is understood that very few people are totally healthy.

I’ll mention a few symptoms that friends of those living with mental health issues might run into and have trouble coping with.

  • Some of us need more love than the average person.
  • We may be overly sensitive, easily hurt when the wrong thing is said.
  • We may easily feel rejected.
  • We seem self-centered during times of depression.
  • We sometimes have expectations that are hard for others to cope with.

I admit that list sounds dreadful! But these negative qualities don’t exist in every case, nor do they exist at all times. In my opinion they should not disqualify a person with mental health issues from opportunities to have healthy friends. I don’t believe these issues would deter Jesus from fellowship with us. Nor should it deter his followers.

But those dreadful symptoms! How can we live with them? These are some important points to remember:

We have to be very careful not to paint mental illness with one broad stroke of the brush. Disorders take various forms. There are varying degrees of functioning, depending on the success of treatment and therapy. Some respond better than others to medication. In many cases mental illness may not be obvious at all. Much depends on the seriousness of the illness, the individual’s resilience, and how much support they receive.

Too many consider mental illness a hopeless condition. It’s tragic when people are recovering, functioning well socially, and still having to live with the label. Those labels are probably the greatest deterrent to a normal life and acceptance by society. Individuals affected by such stigma are not given a chance to show who they can be. They’re not given an opportunity to show the kind of friend they could be.

People who are stigmatized undergo a lot of pain. That pain can be worse than the pain of their symptoms itself.

I speak on behalf of others who live with mental health issues: We are human beings like everyone else. We have the same needs other human beings have. We long to be in relationship with others. We long to love and be loved. We long to help others in the way we are helped. We have hearts and souls that go as deep as anyone’s.

We are God’s children. Your brothers and sisters.


Next week: What about the unhealthy attachment that sometimes occurs?