Health Corner

Christians as good Samaritans in mental health crises – part 3

May churches be more open-minded towards mental health and attend to the mentally ill’s needs with more compassion and love.

WHAT SHOULD CHURCHES DO?

Living with mental illness is challenging for individuals as well as their families. Although there are some advancements in incorporating mental health training and counseling into pastoral training and ministries, mental illnesses continue to have stigma and discrimination in our local churches. Churches and faith communities are usually the number one place people turn to for help when they are in distress. Hence, it is important that churches have a safe and supportive environment for such individuals and should be willing to accept them as they are and affirm their faith amid their suffering. However, our church leaderships are often not adequately prepared or equipped to help individuals minimize their mental agony and suffering daily. They need the most of our sincere acceptance, utmost compassion with tactful sympathy, and appropriate guidance on time. This is possible only if we promote awareness and education about mental health issues and the available resources through educational forums and other opportunities to our congregations and communities. Hearing the medical facts and treatment approaches – both medical and biblical approaches – from the church pulpits can break the stigma, give people hope for acceptance and confidence, and provide an opportunity to support the fellow believers in the mental health crisis better. God is still the ultimate healing source, and bringing them close to Him and the faith is the most crucial part. It is not always the medications they may need. Sometimes, all they need is an understanding ear, a loving touch or presence, a word of advice, a timely referral, or a simple prayer. Guide them also with the wisdom that God can work through medical treatments and skilled professionals as well.

Throughout the Scripture, there is evidence for people dealing with depression, hopelessness, and doubting the existence of God. Let the church be encouraged and empowered by Biblical characters such as Job (Job 3:26), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), David (Psa. 38:4), King Saul (1 Samuel 15), etc. who dealt with the deep emotional distress of depression, loneliness, despair, anger, and anxieties. They also experienced how God provided healing and comfort to His people, and how He used different individuals in comforting them in their distress and suffering.

 The parable of Good Samaritan in Luke 10 again teaches us how God wants Christians to respond to the needy in a non-judgmental and unconditional manner. Let them feel that being mentally sick is not a sin or not their fault. Let them realize that there is hope and healing and that they are loved and their lives matter. Instead of ignoring and neglecting them on the risky roadside, Jesus is telling us to “Go and do likewise’ in Luke 10:37. In today’s context, our churches should be willing and prepared for such critical situations, take care of the injured and traumatized persons’ immediate needs, be present in their painful times and sufferings, advocate for them when needed, etc. We need not know all the answers or fix everything by ourselves. We can be a little more caring, loving, and compassionate and partake in their healing process. I pray that our churches be more open-minded towards mental health and attend to the mentally ill’s needs with more compassion and love. We are called to be the refuge for the weary, sick, and the brokenhearted and love just like Jesus loved us, ultimately representing Christ through our deeds. So often, all it takes to save a life is being a Good Samaritan by being present and willing to help in their painful and frightening times with every possible resource.

PREETHY T THOMAS <br>Oklahoma City USA

PREETHY T THOMAS
Oklahoma City USA

Preethy T. Thomas is a dual certified APRN (Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner) currently employed in Oklahoma, as a PMHNP providing psychiatric treatment and medication management for children and adults. She obtained her BSN from CMC, Vellore; MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner from Georgetown University, D.C, and Post Masters in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner from Stony Brook University, New York. Her favorite part of working in Psychiatry is ‘being able to help those who can’t help themselves.’

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