Much has been done to build better mental health awareness in the church. Yet there’s room for better understanding. And a lot more needs to happen than acceptance alone.

People with mental health issues are no different than others in wanting to be considered to have equal worth. And yet it’s common for them to  be looked down on, preventing them from building the confidence and strength needed to survive. Is this strength not what Jesus would want them to have? Is that not what he wants us to encourage in others?

When people are looked down on, they start looking down on themselves. The result is low self-esteem and a feeling of powerlessness that prevents them from optimum wellness and a fruitful life.

It’s natural for a caring individual to make the mistake of taking a needy person “under her wings,” like a mother might. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for a person’s feeling of self-worth. In fact, it often leads to over-reliance and dependency—even a clinging behavior. When this behavior becomes evident, the reputation of the “needy” person is damaged, causing others in her community to avoid her—even shun her. Hope for recovery is reduced, as is her acceptance by the community.

The best approach to giving support is always the one where the person with difficulties is looked on as being like any other. Not strange, or different—but unique. Not set apart in any way. Not less than, but equal under God. One of God’s children, part of his family in the way all we who believe are part of his family. Worthy to be known and understood. Worthy to have friends.

Do we treat those with mental health issues among us as a mother or father might, holding them as helpless children? Or will we treat them as brothers and sisters would, walking alongside them in fellowship as they grow? How would Jesus treat us?