Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A Positive Response to a Negative Stigma
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV
The sleeping giant is beginning to awaken. First, Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church tragically lose their son, Matthew to suicide in April of 2013. Next, a short 8 months later, Joel and Becky Hunter of Northland, a Church Distributed experience the horror of losing their son, Isaac, to suicide in December of 2013.
While organizations like The American Association of Christian Counselors, The Mental Health Grace Alliance, and Key Ministry have all been around well prior to these notable losses, Lifeway Research and Focus on the Family have recently increased awareness with studies on mental health and the Church. Sadly, the numbers reveal that there remains much work to be done in the Church when it comes to removing the stigma of mental illness and welcoming those with such diagnoses in a significantly inclusive way into Christian community.
So you can see why I am so very excited about the positive response we have received to our online invitation to observe Mental Illness Awareness Week. Our Facebook event, created to help those of us raising children with mental health issues, will provide tools next week, not only to share facts and build awareness, but also to share our prayers for affected family members, including ourselves.
The fact is that everybody knows someone fighting a mental health battle, whether they realize it or not. This makes it critically important that we in the Church envelope people with love and support, rather than judgment and condemnation. People often seek the counsel of pastors in lieu of licensed therapists and doctors. Yet, an alarming rate of pastors feel unequipped for such counseling.
Parents like us have the ability to keep the momentum up in Christian community. Telling our stories, sharing facts, and continuing to advocate within our congregations will prevent the topic of mental health in the Church from being swept back under the rug.
We are called to love the least and the lost like Jesus. As far as I am concerned, this Christian clarion call can come none too soon.
PRAY: Holy Spirit, embolden us to speak up for mental health. Let us not shrink back from speaking the truth in love to church pastors and staff. Make this awareness of the many who suffer with mental illness expand our compassion within Christian community, now more than ever. Amen.
~ Barb Dittrich
* Please join us for our observance of Mental Illness Awareness Week on Facebook!