“When I was diagnosed with depression, I felt as though I finally understood why I felt alone,” said one man, after seeking help through his Doctor. “However,” he continued, “I still was afraid of telling anyone in my Church about my condition because of the fear of being ostracized, which made my depression even more desperate.”
This story is one that could be told throughout our Churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. People with non-severe Mental Health issues that are unsure of their ability to tell someone in their Church about their condition.
What makes the story of the young man who was afraid of telling his Church about his depression even more alarming, is that he is the Pastor of the Church.
One in four Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many look to their Church for spiritual guidance in times of distress. But they’re unlikely to find much help on Sunday mornings.
SBC entities are highlighting the importance of mental health ministry in response to a motion at the 2013 annual meeting. The motion also prompted Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, to name an advisory group to gather suggestions for him about ways Southern Baptists can more effectively minister to people with mental health challenges.
Members of the Mental Health Advisory Group, (MHAG) include pastors, licensed counselors, healthcare providers, educators, social workers and a military chaplain. They represent Churches, private practices, para-Church ministries, state conventions and national SBC entities. Many members of the group have dealt with mental health challenges within their own families in addition to their professional experience.
The intent of the MHAG is to determine what, if any, thing is being done in our SBC Churches to address the stigma of Mental Health within our congregations. This includes the question of Mental Health-Friendly Churches. Is the local Church open to someone simply mentioning they have experienced an issue with anxiety or depression recently? Without any repercussions.
The MHAG has set up a survey that asks five questions to determine the extent of the existing Ministries that focus on Mental Health within our SBC Churches.
The survey can be found here:
The survey results will be used to explore innovative ways in which Churches can address this increasingly prevalent issue with an eye towards awareness, not treatment, at the local Church level.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing issues with Mental Health, there is hope. A recent study revealed that someone with non-severe Mental Health issues can mitigate their symptoms by getting engaged with health relationships. For every healthy relationship fostered, medication can be lowered by one milligram.
In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell tells an interesting story of a group of people who eventually migrate from Italy to upper Pennsylvania. The story is titled, “The Roseto Mystery.” It deals with just why these people lived so much more healthier lives than those around them. Was it due to genealogy? Environment? It turns out that the reason for the amazing findings of virtually zero heart disease in people fifty-five and younger, and the death rate from heart disease half that of the United States as a whole, was this startling fact. The people of Roseto, Pennsylvania enjoyed healthy relationships!
We have the same opportunity in our Churches to create Healthy Relationships! Christ calls us to be in a healthy relationship with Him, and create healthy relationships in our homes, and Churches.
First Baptist Church of Hughson