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A daily struggle for some

As many people have an ongoing battle with mental health problems, what can the church do to help?

The Mental Health Foundation launched its 2019 Mental Health Awareness campaign on Monday, as part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness of mental health problems and encourage more people to speak openly about what are often hidden battles.

On Tuesday evening I visited a friend who I’ve known since I was around 18 years old – that’s a good 16 years. As I made my way into her flat, I noticed that the lights were off and, despite it being a bright, sunny day, her curtains, except one, were drawn. I told her I thought it was dark, but she retorted: Really? I don’t think so.” She didn’t turn on the light. Despite it being only 6.45pm in the evening, and it being quite warm, she was covered in layers of nightclothes. I could see sadness in her face. Perhaps it’s always there but I don’t see it because she’s always dolled up’ when we go out.

We chatted for a while, trying to squeeze a meaningful catch-up into an hour or so. But, as our conversation moved on to something trivial, my heart was pounded with the question: Is she alright?” I told myself: Of course she is,” as I feared the answer and the responsibility that might come with it. I asked her, in the end, how are you?”, because the year before last she was battling anxiety and depression. She told me that she feels sad and that she still suffers with anxiety. But she reassured me that she’s not suicidal. Before I left, I told her that there are so many people who love her – family and friends – and if she ever needs to talk, we’re only a phone call away. We hugged. We hadn’t hugged like that before.

My friend is one of many who, as she put it, is having a silent, but potentially harmful, battle in the mind that no one knows about unless sufferers open up and share and others listen. I, like others, know at least one person who is hurting. I, like others, have heard the news stories of people taking their own life. I, like others, am concerned about the significant increase in mental health problems among young, old, black, white, Christian, non-Christian. That’s why we decided to support the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign by highlighting the perspectives and work of our members: Fegans, Viva, The NOUS Organisation and Christian psychotherapist Dr Rachel-Rose Burrell (of Ruach City Church, London).

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As we recognise the need for mental health support, either for others or for ourselves, let’s do our best to remember the hope that we have in Jesus and to share that hope with one another. As you set aside some time to read the four articles so that you can develop a better understanding of the hidden, ongoing challenges that people face and how the church can respond, I encourage you to remember Jesus’ words: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

This year’s Mental Health Awareness campaign will come to an end on Sunday, returning again in 2020 with another loud call for people to raise awareness of mental health and do what they can to help avert the destruction that conditions can cause. But day after day, from one campaign to the next, the Mental Health Foundation and all the Christian organisations mentioned here will continue working, because mental health is a daily struggle for some. Therefore, let us, too, do our bit to look after people’s mental health, whether it’s supporting one of these charities or simply sitting with a friend in their dark flat and giving them a listening ear and a hug.

About the author

Naomi joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2018 as editorial content manager. Positions with publishers and within the marketing and communications faculty of a higher education institution, plus stints as a reporter, have enabled the media and cultural studies graduate, who has an NCTJ diploma in newspaper journalism, to hone the necessary skills and qualities to serve members well.

See more from Naomi Osinnowo

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