“We can all have good mental health. It is about having a sense of purpose, strong relationships, feeling connected to our communities, knowing who we are, coping with stress and enjoying life,” says a statement by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Statistics indicate that each year 6.7 million Canadians—one in five people—experience some form of mental illness. By age 40, that number increases to one in two people. Sadly, about 1.6 million citizens report they don’t have adequate care for mental-health needs.
Here are some messages we can offer to each other as we deal with mental illness:
‘You deserve to be well.’
In a recent conversation I had with someone struggling with anxiety and depression, the question of worthiness came up. Growing up in a household where affirmation rarely happened, feeling broken and inadequate, this person did not feel worthy of a better life.
Sometimes we need to remind each other: Each person is God’s beloved child, made in God’s image, and is deserving of a fulfilling life. The Creator’s wish is for all to experience healing and wellness.
‘You can talk about it. I will listen. I will help.’
I once participated in a congregation that demonstrated an unusual ability to support congregants going through tough times. In Sunday sharing times, a woman spoke openly about her ongoing struggle with an eating disorder. A couple talked about their family member’s schizophrenia and the challenges it had for them. A recovering alcoholic told of how he was using his past addiction experiences to minister to others. As congregants listened and learned about each other’s vulnerabilities, we were able to offer prayers, understanding and practical support.
‘Things will get better.’
There was a time when life looked hopeless to me. Struggling with deep depression, I could not imagine how things could ever change for the better. A doctor friend helped me get access to medication, encouraged me to pursue counselling and reassured me, “Things will get better.” In my lowest times, I held on to that reassurance. Thanks be to God, with time and the proper support, my depression lifted.
People struggling with long-term anxiety, addictions, depression, schizophrenia and other ailments know that there is no magic cure. But, with God’s help, the right treatments and support, with self-care and with the care of a loving community, things can get better.
The song “Will You let Me be your Servant,” No. 307 in Hymnal: A Worship Book, captures some of the opportunities before us. As companions on the journey toward wellness, we can “help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”
Verse 3 says: “I will hold the Christ-light for you / in the night-time of your fear. / I will hold my hand out to you, / speak the peace you long to hear.”
In our current feature, “When it’s hard to go to church,” former pastor Donita Wiebe-Neufeld considers how a congregation might walk alongside people dealing with mental illness and other hard life issues. In “Breaking through the screen,” parents and educators are reminded that students’ time with technology can have negative effects on their mental and social health. A sponsored content story (not available online) tells the story of someone who experiences a strong connection between meaningful employment and mental well-being.
On our journey toward healing, let’s keep figuring out ways to hold the Christ-light out to each other in our families, churches and communities.
Same correspondent / new name
You will notice a new byline here. On April 20, B.C. correspondent Amy Dueckman celebrated her marriage to Marc Waddell. She now writes under her new byline, Amy Rinner Waddell. We wish the newlyweds much happiness!
Two corrections are needed to the “MC Canada primer” story, which ran in the April 29 issue. Concerning the new Witness funding model, support teams are asked to raise at least half of the funding needed to support International Witness workers. Also, Nhien Pham is not a Witness worker; he currently works with North American Vietnamese Evangelical Fellowship, which is an MC Canada partner. Canadian Mennonite regrets the errors.