Mental health is incredibly personal and complex. For Christians, there’s the added complexity of understanding mental health as a scientific reality, not simply a spiritual one. Because of this, we recognize the need for added support to know how to help others or ourselves. As an organization, we want to learn and grow in this area as we seek to engage in gospel conversations with those around us. It has become very clear to us — mental health matters.
We recently sat down with Dan Whitehead, the CEO of our new partner Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries. In our interview, he spoke about the importance of entering into the complexity of mental health conversations as a faith-based organization.
“Tragically,” Dan explains, “there are many people in communities of faith who are suffering in silence, who are stigmatized. They feel because they have a mental diagnosis, mental illness, or mental health challenges, that they’re failing as Christians, and nothing could be further from the truth.”
Entering into the complexity
Entering into these discussions of personal challenges can be complex. It’s not easy to wrestle with heavy topics like depression or suicide. Dan has seen this trend in churches he has interacted with, and it’s been a point of frustration.
“To enter into the complexity is part of the deal, but that’s scary for some people,” Dan explains. “Some people have an overly simplified view of mental health because of their own need to keep things simple and controllable.” Often, allowing deeper and more troubling ideas to challenge us can make us feel uncomfortable and insecure. It’s easier to pretend they don’t exist.
Mental health matters to Jesus
It might help to recognize that there are many examples from Jesus’ life that show how mental health matters and affects us all. Dan points out, “In the Bible, there are all kinds of people suffering, languishing, isolated, and Jesus always makes a point to reach out and identify with those people to draw them in. It’s also through Jesus’ actions with others that we see His care and concern for mental health challenges.”
Jesus entered into the complexity, and so can we. That’s our challenge now as we engage the reality of our own mental health and learn to be present for those around us who need our support. If we remember that Jesus cares about mental health, let ourselves process our feelings, and sit with others as they do the same, we can keep heading in the right direction on this journey together.
Watch the full conversation with Dan below.