The Church’s Place in Mental Health

hands1America and the world face tremendous challenges in the area of mental health.

The church is society’s first responder for mental health.

Those were the two main takeaways from yesterday’s summit on mental health. I was both discouraged at the enormity of the problem and encouraged at the opportunity for the church to touch so many hurting people.

Here’s the enormity of the problem.

As a pastor looks out over his congregation on any given Sunday, 26% of the congregation suffers some kind of diagnosable mental disorder, some of which are manageable and some severe. If the church has 100 people in attendance, at least one-quarter of the attenders are dealing with issues ranging from addictions to schizophrenia.

In churches and in society, one-quarter of the people have to deal with a mental disorder. Putting it another way, every fourth house in your neighborhood is struggling with these debilitating illnesses.

Each year worldwide, 450 million people deal with mental illness. One million of these folks commit suicide. Depression and anxiety are the most common forms of the issues they face.

The church is society’s first responder to mental disorders.

In America and across the globe, people go first to churches and religious leaders for help.

That’s why we met most of the day yesterday. We were being trained and equipped to recognize and refer people who are dealing with these issues.

Not only is the church the first place people go, it is also the long term provider of encouragement and support for individuals and families going through the trials of mental disorders.

How should we respond?

Isn’t it wonderful that hurting people think of the church first? We have been given the opportunity to positively touch huge numbers of people. Here’s how we can respond.

We must respond with compassion and good will. Individuals and families need the help that people filled with the Holy Spirit can give.

We must respond with openness and sensitivity. No longer can we do nothing or act as if these serious problems don’t exist. We must bring these issues to light, recognizing the pervasiveness of the problem,

We must encourage people to seek qualified help. God uses His truth to heal. He is a healing God.

When our firstborn was about 18 months old, she had a high fever on a Sunday morning. I remember thanking God with deep emotion for a pharmacist who opened up on a Sunday (it was a different day) to provide the medicine God had given to heal my daughter. Why shouldn’t we do the same with medication that helps mental disorders?

We should pray for and encourage families who give so much to care for their family members. We can pray for those who suffer and those who attend to their needs.

God has placed His church in a strategic place. Let us take every opportunity to care for others.

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