Christians are not immune to mental illness. In fact, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year. That means that if your church has 100 members, at least 20 of them are struggling with a mental health condition. As a pastor, it’s important that you know how to address mental health in a way that is both compassionate and helpful.
What Does the Bible Say About Mental Health?
There is no one answer to this question because the Bible does not explicitly mention mental health. However, there are several passages that deal with topics like anxiety, depression, and fear—all of which can be symptoms of mental illness. For example, in Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what they will eat or drink, or wear because God will take care of them. This passage can be helpful for those who are struggling with anxiety because it reminds them that they are not alone and that God is in control.
Another example is Psalm 34:17-18, which says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” This verse is comforting for those who are dealing with depression because it shows that God is aware of their pain and is willing to help. There are many other verses in the Bible that can be applied to mental health, so it’s clear that God cares about the mental well-being of His people. We need to open up the conversation and offer support to those who are struggling.
Practical Ways to Address Mental Health in the Church
- 1. Have a Mental Health Policy
If your church does not have a policy on mental health, now is the time to create one. This policy should include guidelines on how to address mental illness within the congregation and how to provide support for those who are struggling. It should also include information on where members can go for help outside of the church (e.g., therapy, support groups, etc.). Having a policy in place will show your congregation that you take mental health seriously and that you are committed to providing help and support.
- 2. Create a Safe Space
There are many misconceptions about mental illness, and some people believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness. However, mental illness is a real medical condition that can be effectively treated with medication and therapy. The goal of treatment is not to “fix” the person but to help them live their best life possible despite their diagnosis. Churches can help by making sure their congregations know that it is okay to seek outside help and that treatment can be part of a holistic approach to mental health. Another way is by offering support groups or classes on mental health topics. By making your church a safe space for honest conversation about mental illness, you can help reduce the stigma surrounding these issues and encourage people to seek help when they need it.
- 3. Use People-First Language
The way we talk about mental illness either perpetuates the stigma or begins to break it down. When discussing mental illness from the pulpit, pastors should use people-first language. For example, instead of saying “the mentally ill,” say “people living with mental illness.” This type of language begins to break down barriers and starts a conversation of empathy instead of judgment. By using people-first language, we can begin to see those suffering from mental illness as individuals with stories and experiences rather than labels.
- Mental illness is common. In fact, one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue in any given year. And yet, it’s often taboo within churches. Why? Because many people don’t understand mental illness—or they’re afraid to ask questions. This leaves those who are struggling to feel isolated and alone. But you can change that. You can be the person who makes the church a safe place for people with mental illness by following these three simple action steps. What will you do today to make your church more welcoming for those with mental illness?