Are you aware that the 10th of October is World Mental Health Day and October is Mental Health Month? Why do we need “Mental Health Day & Month”? Because mental health is crucial for the well-being of ourselves and society, and it hasn’t been paid enough attention. Most of us weren’t even aware of mental health issues before. However, since the pandemic, we have all been affected by mental health challenges in some way, either by ourselves or through those around us. To gain a better understanding, we need to learn some terms first:
- Mental health: A state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.
- Mental illness: These are disorders that affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, causing distress and disrupting a person’s ability to function in various environments and relationships. Mental illness may include anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, schizophrenia, eating disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, ADHD… However, they must be diagnosed by health professionals.
- Mental health challenge: a term that refers to mild or moderate experiences or symptoms of poor mental health, regardless of the presence or absence of mental illness.
According to WHO, “One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.” So, not everyone suffers from mental illness, but everyone can encounter and experience mental health challenges. Sadly, mental health issues have been stigmatised for a long time due to the lack of knowledge of the human brain, historical biases, and false teachings. People often hold negative and/or judgemental attitudes toward mental health issues and feel shame if they have, and worse, avoid treatments. We, as Christians, need to take mental health seriously, look after our mental health, and love and care for those suffering from mental health challenges and disorders. We do so not because governments or some political or social groups force us but because God commands us.
God loves us first and asks us to love Him, ourselves and others in His way. Through His great commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), God clearly shows us that He sees and cares about every one of us as a whole being, including our body, emotions, spirit and relationships, involving mental health. In Proverbs 4:23, God tells us to “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” What does the “heart” mean here? According to its original Hebrew word, lēḇ, the heart refers to our inner person, self, the seat of thought and emotion. So, God wants us to protect our mental health, so to speak. The Bible is full of stories about God’s people experiencing mental health issues, including Elijah, David, Jonah, many palmists, etc. Many faithful Christians have also endured severe mental health issues. One of them is Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century British pastor and preacher, who is known as the “Prince of Preaching”.
As Apostle John exhorted us in 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I’d like to share some actions that we can do to protect our mental health and care for one another as follows:
- We must work together to de-stigmatise mental health challenge or illness by gaining more knowledge and awareness of mental health issues.
- Together we must accept people suffering from mental health issues without judging them and learn to accompany them without offering medical advice or diagnosis, which needs to be done only by medical professionals.
- If we experience any mental health issue, let’s face it bravely without avoiding or hiding it.
- Don’t rely on yourself, actively seek help.
- Hold fast to the Lord, establish and maintain a genuine and close relationship with Him.