Reframing Mental Health

What pictures come to mind when you read the words “mental health?”

Exhausted women curled up in corners?  Men at their desks with their head in their hands?  Desperate teenagers on suicide watch?

Unfortunately, in an effort to start conversations about mental health, the media has chosen stark and provocative picture of mental unhealth to promote the agenda.

We need to reframe this.

We need to pursue mental health – a way of overcoming, moving past and coping with the issues that steal our health from us.

Mental health needs to be reframed to pictures of serenity; peaceful moments amid chaos, courage to keep doing the next little thing and moments of joy in tough times.

Mental health and the Church

Unfortunately, for Christians, this topic has been an abused and misused topic.  I swing between deep sorrow and simmering rage at the ignorance with which the church has often addressed issues of mental health.

The number of Christians who are told their depression is a refusal to accept the joy of the Lord and they need to just pray harder.  Or their anxiety is an attack from the devil and they need too stand strong.  Or their burnout proves they have sin in their lives, keeping them from the Lord’s provision, and they need to repent.

Like all good lies, there may be kernels of truth – just enough to knock us off balance and fail to pursue what God has placed in front of us to bring us back to health.  Unforgiveness presents itself eerily like severe depression.  Feeling unworthy often keeps us from accepting the good gifts God has for us.  And the devil does love to prey on our weaknesses.

But can we just say, loud and clear, that mental health issues are much too complex to be dismissed by any casual blanket statements?

If you’re human, you have sin in your life.  Yet not all people suffer from depression.  If you’re a Christian, I hope you have some joy in your life.  Yet many Christians struggle with anxiety.  God’s provision is for all believers but even in the Bible there were times when God’s people lacked provision.  So while there may be a kernel of truth in these “church” statements, they do not tell the whole story.

The whole story

The whole story of how trauma in your past affects your present.

The whole story of the chemical makeup of our bodies and what that means.

The whole story of the brain being an organ that can sustain injury and illness.

The whole story of circumstances beyond our control that overwhelm and isolate.

The whole story of how unhealth in other areas of life affects your mental health.

While we can’t ignore the spiritual health either, there is so much more going on in issues of mental health than to reduce it to one thing only.

Medication and the Christian

Can we talk medication for a moment?

For many, there is an incredible stigma attached with taking medication for depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.

This needs to go.

God has always provided healing through other people – sometimes miraculously, through laying on of hands and prayers, but also through sound advice and even prescriptions.  When we refuse to accept the healing methods placed right in front of us, we are often refusing God’s provision.

Medication does not solve all your problems, and it isn’t always the answer.

I know a few people who ARE on medication and probably shouldn’t be.

I also know people who are NOT on medication who need to be.

Medication will not solve issues.  If you are dealing with depression because of unhealthy relationships, going on medication will not make your relationships healthy.  You’re going to have to work on those.  Taking medication in order to avoid facing issues in your life will not work.

However, if there is a physiological reason for your depression, it doesn’t matter how much you pray, confess your sin or pursue physical health, you’re going to need to take something to address that imbalance.

That’s a gift from God.  Take it.

Here’s the other caveat: medication doesn’t fix everything.  Even if your struggle is physiological, it doesn’t let you off the hook.  Recovery is always hard work.  The medication enables you to function so that you can do the hard work.  Those who live daily with the reality of depression will tell you medication is incredibly helpful, but they also pursue sports, support groups, meditation and other daily practices to keep themselves healthy.  It’s just one of many supports in their lives.

Okay, rant over.  If you need meds, take them.  Guilt free.  And keep pursuing health.

For the next few days, we’re going to be looking into what it looks like to be healthy, mentally, and what little things you can do to move towards mental health.

One Little Thing Challenge

If you haven’t already, book an appointment with your doctor or naturopathic doctor.  Many of us (myself included) have some mental unhealth that needs more than a pull-yourself-out-of-this mentality.  You may need medication, or vitamin supplements, or even just a prescribed routine to help your brain heal.

Finding a qualified naturopathic doctor can be a challenge, especially for Christians.  If you live in the Winnipeg area or prefer online consultations, may I recommend Dr. Amy Kroeker, a naturopathic doctor who works by Biblical principles and has experience treating mental health issues and holistic healing.

Day 6 Printable Journal

check back later

Today’s Prayer

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