MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS IN THE CHURCH

After many years of fighting to overcome the stigma of mental illness in the Church, starting with publication of a couple of articles for the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division in 2005 and 2006, I’m coming to see that “well” people will never truly understand what it is to be us. More and more, I’m realizing how impossible that is. There’s a gap between us, in the same way there’s a gap between all peoples who are “different.”

Although all of us share equally in the love of Christ, there is a gap between the “healthy” and the “sick.” A gap that divides. This gap causes pain to those who are not being understood—those who are being made to feel looked down on.

Could we learn to come together, narrowing the gap that exists?

There should never be such a gap between brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not be divided one from the other. There should not be an “us” and “them”—those who care for and those who are cared for. We are all children of God, members of his family. There for “each other.”

Too many are under the false impression that psychiatric symptoms are constantly present in people with diagnosed illnesses. This is not true. Most of us only experience symptoms intermittently, especially during times of stress. As long as we’re well, we’re able to take an active part in the community, able to be there for others.

Supporting people with mental health issues should not only be the role of the healthy. We who live with such issues are probably able to give some of the best support to people like ourselves. Because we can relate to them. We’re more easily able to feel compassion.

We should not be looked on as forever the victim of illness. Many of us are well most of the time. Many of us carry roles of caring for friends and family who might be experiencing illnesses of all kinds. A lot of us are victors.

The gap that exists between the healthy and not so healthy is unfortunate, especially in the Church. The Christian Church should be an example of how we should look at each other and treat one another, as equals under God—each one of us able to give and receive.

How might we narrow that gap? There are many ways, some of which I mentioned in a previous blogpost. (Reclaiming Our Voices)

The gap could narrow if we would only dialogue with each other. If we would only come together and talk to each other. If we would only hear each other—each of us learning to understand the issues from both sides.

We must live in fellowship as Jesus modelled for us, no one standing above the other.

Christ’s life showed that he did not look down on the people around him. He did not look down on the tax collector, the leper, or the demoniac. He touched them, spent time with them, talked to them.

Can we in the Church do the same?

marja