by Wally Doerksen, Steinbach, Man.
In the March 2018 issue of The Messenger, Irene Ascough writes an article called Promoting Positive Mental Health in the Church. It seems to focus mostly on the benefits of mental health and that it is easier to stay healthy than to treat or look after people who are not well. While the church is a potentially positive place for mental well being, it also fosters a culture of shame and expectation (if we could be what we should be) and “sinlessness” that is not conducive to mental health. This is a great area of potential growth for the church to change those kinds of attitudes.
What a mental health seminar/workshop needs is teaching about skills and tools that help people from the pits that they are already in and a safe environment in which to tell their stories. Research shows that stories make up about half of the effective ways in which to live and cope with mental illness. People with mental illness are not inferior people; they are not their “disease,” but people who for various reasons have encountered things that have overwhelmed them. Just like some physical diseases for which there are no cures, mental illness is not necessarily solved by being “cured,” but individuals can have productive lives by learning to cope and recover from their situations.
I have lived with depression for over twenty years and have learned a lot about this and continue to learn. I am always willing to share from my experience.
I hope also that the upcoming mental health session will deal with the recovery part of the process that teaches people how to get there.