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Six Ways to Help Someone Struggling with Their Mental Health

 
Helen Thorne | March 14, 2023

Struggles with mental health are on the rise. Anxiety, depression and many other diagnoses besides are becoming increasingly common in our congregations and communities. All of us will know someone who is finding life desperately hard. Many of us reading right now will know the awfulness of a persistent low mood or a relentless fear that taints every day. 

As we see our friends and family brought low, our hearts often break. We long for them to be thriving again. But what can we do? 

Within congregations there can be a temptation to run in two opposite directions. Sometimes people tend to assume that mental-health struggles are purely medical matters and therefore care should be outsourced to doctors and psychologists alone. Other people tend to assume that mental-health struggles are just matters of the heart and actively discourage engagement with those working in the medical field. There is a better way. As Christians, we can remember that since Genesis 3 our bodies have been in decay – we can acknowledge that our flesh does impact the way we feel, and therefore be open to medication and the medic’s practical strategies, appreciating the relief those things can bring. But, as Christians, we can also remember that Jesus is Lord over all – even struggles with our mental health. We can turn to his word confident that we will find an abundance of hope and help. 

What does that mean for us in practice? Here are six simple things that every church can do to support those struggling with their mental health. 

1. Acknowledge 

Those struggling with their mental health can often feel desperately alone – everyone else at church looks so happy! Maybe some even feel guilty for having struggles at all. We can help by simply acknowledging that mental-health struggles are normal in this fallen world. In Scripture, Elijah spoke of his despair, Paul spoke of his anxiety, David acknowledged his fear – Jesus taught extensively about anxiety, presumably because he knew it was a topic about which we needed to hear. 

2. Listen

Mental-health struggles may be common but everyone’s experience of them will be different. Setting aside time to listen to people is a precious thing. Being willing to get to know the person before us rather than making assumptions about them is a kindness that, in itself, can lighten a burdened heart. 

3. Relate

Maintaining friendships, answering texts, getting to church and engaging in social events can all feel like impossible tasks. We can love people by keeping in touch (cards, texts, and voice notes can all convey our care). We can love people by understanding they sometimes won’t be able to join in. We can offer lifts, sit with them near the back of church, and be relaxed about them quietly nipping out of the service for a break. Love helps people to engage but doesn’t force them.

One of the privileges of being a Christian is being able to speak to the King of all things. He loves more than we do. His power to sustain is without end.

4. Pray

One of the privileges of being a Christian is being able to speak to the King of all things. He loves more than we do. His power to sustain is without end. We can be diligent and passionate about praying for our friends. Not just that the Lord will heal them but that he will comfort, strengthen, and refine them, and help them persevere. And we can help them pray too. 

5. Speak

We won’t want to be quick to speak – but speak we must because, in Scripture, there is hope for all in need. We can encourage each other to run to the God who is our refuge; help each other to put our trust in the God who is King. We can remind each other of the Lord’s provision and commit to following his wise, Shepherdly leading through the complexities of life. We can reinforce the truth that, far from being outside his love, those in Christ are his precious children.  

6. Help 

And we can shop, offer lifts, encourage engagement with their doctor…

As we do, the pain won’t instantly disappear but a framework for perseverance and hope will begin to emerge and, together, we all can walk towards that day when mental-health struggles will finally go away.  

 

Helen Thorne

Helen Thorne is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK. She formerly worked with the London City Mission and has written Hope in an Anxious World, Purity Is Possible, Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers and 5 Things to Pray for Your City. She attends Dundonald Church in Raynes Park, London.

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