Marja Bergen

author, mental health advocate, follower of Christ

Hope for recovery


When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 

John 13:12-16

By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus demonstrated the humility and love with which we are called to serve others.

Faith-based peer support is an excellent way through which we can show such humility as we provide emotional and social support to those with whom we have lived experience in common. Peer support focuses on health and recovery rather than illness and disability.

Those who have themselves suffered will best be able to provide this kind of support with love and compassion. It takes a humble person to consider themselves equal to those they lead—a person who follows Christ’s example. A peer support worker responds as a friend, not as an authority.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and its Evidence Exchange Network, “There is evidence that peer support helps people stay on treatment, reduces hospital use, increases independence and a sense of hope, and may help reduce costs. In the area of mental health, peer support can build a person’s self-confidence, sense of empowerment, and ability to function.”

Some of you who read this may have been members of a Living Room group in the past. Living Room was a ministry that was founded on the peer support model. What made it stand apart was that it was faith-based.

You may remember what it was like for all of us to meet as equals. No one standing above another. No one knowing better. Together, all of us searching the Bible—our only authority on how God would have us live. Could there be any better support than this?

It’s unfortunate that Christian peer support is no longer supported for people with lived experience. And yet, if we want to follow Christ’s example of humility, shouldn’t we find a way to re-establish such peer support programs for the people needing help for their mental health issues?

It would take strong and healthy people who have the energy that organizing such a program would take. It would take dedicated people with the love of Christ in them—people who follow Jesus with heart and soul. Think of the recovery that would be possible for those who are now struggling alone.


1 Comment

  1. After a traumatic life event, I was diagnosed bipolar. And on the same year, I left my church. I hope I could still meet people who will understand what mental illness is and I wont be judged because of my state. I hope to get to a group or support system that loves and follows Jesus.

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