Christians as Good Samaritans in mental health crises
Millions of people across the globe are affected by mental illnesses each year. Besides, the current pandemic COVID-19 sure does take a severe toll on mental health. Mental health is still typically poorly understood, under-diagnosed, underreported, and undertreated. Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health (World Health Organization; WHO).
However, mental health has long been a controversial subject among Christians and kept at bay within the church communities. It is worth knowing how little our churches know about mental illnesses and how stigmatized this topic is among us Christians. Issues such as mental health or mental illnesses are rarely addressed in our churches or sermons. We can see several examples throughout the scripture, such as “The parable of Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-35), which teaches us how our churches can minister to those with mental illnesses.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH AND MENTAL ILLNESSES
The shared thoughts or the words that come to our mind when we hear the word ‘mental illness’ is usually “oh, she or he is crazy or nuts or insane.” That often has to do with what we have seen or heard in our community or culture. Mental health and mental illnesses are two standard terms used interchangeably, but what do they mean? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses (NAMI), mental health is the emotional, psychological, and social well-being, affecting how we think, feel, act, or handle stressful situations.
Mental illness is a broad term and can take many forms. Many of us have experienced various emotions such as ‘feeling sad, down, dull, unhappy, upset, easily irritable, overwhelmed, etc.’ from time to time with circumstances, but that doesn’t indicate we are mentally ill. Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. While anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses we often hear, there are many other mental illnesses.
Some of the common ones are mood disorders such as Major depressive disorder (264 million worldwide), Bipolar disorder (20million worldwide), etc. , anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ObsessiveHealth Corner compulsive disorder (OCD), etc., psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia (45million worldwide), schizoaffective disorders, etc., Neurocognitive disorders such as delirium, dementias (50 million worldwide), etc. , personality disorders, substance abuse conditions, etc.
The recent statistics are startling, and they estimate that nearly 13% world population (971 million people) suffer from some form of mental illnesses, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., that is, 43.8 million people experience mental illness in a given year, 1 in 10 people suffer from depression, and 21.4 percent of youth from 13-18 years will experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their lifetime. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24. Several factors could contribute to mental illnesses, including biological factors such as physiology, biochemistry, and genetic factors, psychological factors such as emotional experiences and a person’s upbringing, Social factors such as a person’s cultural background and current lifestyles.
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