This Monday was World Mental Health Day. An international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

I’m fortunate enough to say that so far in my life I’ve never had a serious run in with poor mental health, but low level, bubbling anxiety has been a fairly familiar companion since I was a teenager, along with occasional visits from panic attacks and what I call sad days”.

After a few trickier spots after family bereavements and general post-pandemic stress, in the last year I have decided to tackle my mental health in a more active way. Nothing revolutionary – but I’m more careful about how much caffeine I have, prioritise sleep more, am more active, and try to be better at talking to my husband and other loved ones about how I feel or things I’m worried about. 

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading two different books focused on mental health for the last couple of months. A New Day by Emma Scrivener, and Jog On by Bella Mackie. 

A New Day is written by a Christian, and although she certainly doesn’t assume that everyone reading her book is a follower of Jesus, Emma walks the reader through the difference that the good news of Jesus can make to our mental health. She tackles hunger, anxiety, control, shame, anger and despair and shows us how Jesus dealt with each of those struggles at the cross, and how He continues to help His people today. The book is designed to be read in short chunks, and she does a great job of bridging the gap between Bible-focused pastoral advice and real-life application, and the necessary place of medical intervention and professional counselling. 

I picked up Jog On because I’d heard again and again how running was a great way to battle anxiety. As someone who, much like Bella Mackie, would categorise myself as a bad runner” (or at least not a particularly good one) and, if I’m honest, still isn’t that sure how much I enjoy it, I thought reading about someone else’s experience might keep me motivated. The book is a compilation of Bella’s story of mental health, fascinating research and data about the links between mental health and exercise, and practical running advice, as well as where you can seek help. It’s interesting, funny and thankfully, motivational. 

They’ve been on my hmm I really want to read that book’ list for a while, and I’d recommend them both highly. In fact, I would recommend reading them alongside each other. This way, I feel I have been able to have a greater appreciation for the goodness of God in our mental health struggles, as well as the tools God has given us to tackle difficult times.

This way, I feel I have been able to have a greater appreciation for the goodness of God in our mental health struggles, as well as the tools God has given us to tackle difficult times.

Running, whether I like it or not, has been good for me. I will leave Bella Mackie to go into the science of it, but I have felt an increased sense of calm, and greater resilience when wobbly moments come my way. I love the post-run buzz (often more than the run itself). But without a doubt, I love it much more as I think about my Creator God, who has gifted me with legs that work, and beautiful and interesting things to see as I plod along. The God who has created my mind and designed it to send nice chemicals around my body when activated by exercise.

Photo by Marcel Strauß
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Both of these books tackle what to do with feelings of worthlessness, purposelessness, and hopelessness. And I have often stopped and thought, wow, this must be so much harder without Jesus. Christians can of course experience these emotions in a deep and real way, and when that’s the case, often good theology or kind words are not enough – prescription medication and counselling have a vital role to play. In fact, good theology in many cases leads to accepting the need for, and therefore, taking medication and counselling. The blessing of God’s provision through medical experts and therapists can be literally lifesaving and people should never feel like they can’t ask for help when they need it.

But, just as jogging is now a tool in my arsenal to preserve good mental health, how much more is the understanding that I am a precious child of God? Fearfully and wonderfully made, God’s special possession, loved so much that the Lord of the universe came to be like me and experience my struggles whilst remaining perfectly sinless, so that He could die for me and offer me the certain hope of eternity with Him. A perfect eternity where my shins will never ache, my mind will always be healthy, and I will sing His praises forever and ever. I am determined to keep the running up, and I hope I do, but I pray that for the rest of my days, even long after my knees won’t let me run anymore, I will grow in knowledge of the glory of God, and my deep security in Him and His unending love.

The blessing of God’s provision through medical experts and therapists can be literally lifesaving and people should never feel like they can’t ask for help when they need it.

More articles on mental health:

Young adults: Let's talk mental health in church

Young adults: Let's talk mental health in church

Why churches need to open up a dialogue on mental and emotional health – and how to get started
Are you a mental health friendly church?

Are you a mental health friendly church?

Rachael Newham from Kintsugi Hope explains the project to equip every church to be a mental health friendly space for their congregation and wider community
Kintsugi Hope
Mission