What a year...
As I am writing this, we are in the middle of Mental Health awareness week, and I can’t help but think about how this past year has affected so many people's mental health. Unfortunately, Mental health is a bit of a taboo subject, especially amongst Christians, yet according to the most recent national survey of young people's mental health, 12.8% of children and young people (aged 5-19 years) met the clinical criteria for mental health conditions. This was recorded before the past year we have had, facing a global pandemic. I am convinced that that has definitely increased since then. So this is definitely a topic we need to be talking more about!
This past year has been tough for so many people, including myself. We have experienced feelings of isolation, fear, worries for loved ones and ourselves, grief over losing someone close to us, on top of our normal daily pressures. All these affect our mental health and can leave us feeling anxious and depressed.
I have struggled with mental health issues since I was a teenager and still struggle daily. I am also Christian and believe in the joy that comes with knowing Jesus and I was brought up believing that two can’t happen together. That it was wrong for me to feel that way when I knew Jesus. But I would like to set the record straight here and now – that is a NOT true.
Mental health issues affect everyone, including those who know Jesus. However, faith can have a positive impact on our mental health, here is how…
The Bible is full of promises to us from God that we can cling on to in times of trouble. God tells us he ‘will never leave us nor forsake us’ (Joshua 1:5) that He is with us always. For me that is a huge comfort to know that I am not going through this alone and that God is there every step of the way.
He is also there to listen to our cries and voice our concerns. It says in Philippians 4:6-7
‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.’
What a promise! I have found this true for myself, when I talk to God about my worries and feelings, He fills me with a peace, that doesn’t make sense, but is so calming and reassuring. Quite often I have to keep coming back to him again and again, but that is ok.
Lastly, knowing Jesus gives us hope that we aren’t always going to be feeling this way. One day, when our time on earth is finished (hopefully a long time from now), we will be with Him in heaven where there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more sorrow. That gives me hope in the midst of my anxiety and depression.
That being said, that doesn’t mean that you can’t receive professional help for your mental health here and now. There are so many great organisations and charities out there that want to help you. I have put a few at the end of this blog.
Whether you have faith or not, please be assured that you are not alone. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust, whether that is a parent, teacher or youth worker. But also remember there is a God who loves you, that also wants to walk through this with you.