The level of uncertainty during this COVID-19 pandemic is palpable. Many of us are feeling as if what we do know, is almost an amplification of what we don’t know. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has given guidelines and suggestions for how to protect ourselves from the virus, experts in the medical community are sharing their viewpoints during news coverage, and social media is flooded with the expression of emotion from people all around the world who are doing their best to make sense of it all.
As we move forward there are a couple of important things, relating to our mission of supporting mental health, we at Mental Health Pulpit feel are necessary to include in the conversation.
Making our mental health a priority is crucial. The body cannot function without the brain and the brain can’t function without the body. Often in the process of securing our physical safety, our mental concerns are pushed aside because of the assumption that “feeling good” is not important, being safe is important. Mental health is not about “feeling good” all the time, it is more about seeing ourselves through as accurate an image as possible and developing as appropriate a response to that view as possible. When we see ourselves and our circumstances clearly, the better prepared we will be for addressing a crisis.
We can’t manage our mental health alone. Social distancing is good for the prevention of spreading the coronavirus and should be practiced. We need to remember, social distancing is not the same as social isolation. Maintaining our relationships will require a different approach than many of us are used to for a while. Different is ok…it’s just different. We may need to talk on the phone instead of a coffee shop visit. Social media can be used to build others up and encourage our friends. Internet-based video chats such as Skype, or Zoom , are a free way to make face-to-face possible. And please remember to reach out to the people you know are struggling; their mental health may be keeping them from making the call to you.
Keep your mental health appointments or find alternatives. When it is possible, keep the appointments you have with your mental health practitioners. Stay on top of your prescriptions. When necessary utilize web-based counseling or teletherapy such as Talkspace. Not all services are covered by insurance so make sure to check with the provider.
Your emotions are valid! If your Facebook feed is anything like ours, you are hearing from many individuals letting everyone else know they should stop panicking. No one has the right to tell you how to feel about what is going on. While the word panic, from a dictionary sense of the word, is an uncontrolled response and in an ideal situation having a controlled response is typically more effective, we shouldn’t let anyone decide for us how we should feel about what is going on. One person’s panic is another person’s getting prepared. You do what you feel is appropriate for you. We have a high-risk household, we bought a couple weeks’ worth of food because, for us, self-quarantine is not a maybe, it’s inevitable. I am not going to tell anyone they have to do the same. If you don’t feel this is necessary for you and feel that others are overreacting, that’s fine as well, but keep in mind that telling me not to panic when you don’t know my story, doesn’t make me feel at ease.
Please stop telling me that because I am covered by the blood of Jesus that I am fine. This will be the topic of this Thursday's blog post so I am not going to go too far into this right now. What I do want to say for now is that ignoring health warnings because you are a Christian is not only reckless and potentially harmful (and potentially deadly) it is sinful. Matthew 4:7 says “Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” The belief that God can protect us is not the same thing as being reckless for the sake of not wanting to be inconvenienced by a pandemic.
This is new for most of us. Over the next few weeks, I want to encourage us to practice being patient with each other. This is a first for many people so we don’t necessarily know how to respond to this new normal. We will make choices that we wish we didn’t and choices we are glad we did. The stress of this situation will bring out and/or exacerbate mental health symptoms we may not have felt before. Feeling different, feeling scared, and feeling alone does not make us bad people, bad Christians, bad friends. It makes us human.
As we go forward I would also encourage you to visit us on Facebook. We will be ramping up what and how often we post on social media in the hopes of being an encouragement and as a safe place to connect with others who are struggling. If you have questions you want to ask but don’t want to do it publicly, you can email Nate through firstname.lastname@example.org and your question will be kept anonymous.
You are not alone. We are in this together.
You are loved!
Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit
Serving those who struggle with their mental health by breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in our churches and our communities through faith-based support and the equipping of leaders.
We are committed to outreach and education through continued on-line resource growth, in person instruction & advocacy across the country.
and people who struggle with their mental health are already sitting in our churches. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness (44.7 million in 2016). Mental illnesses include many different conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe." (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml)
If 20% of our church attendees are in some way struggling with their mental health and we don't address it appropriately then we run the risk of ultimately hurting 20% of our church attendees through alienation and shame.
Throughout my years of advocacy work I have had the opportunity to share with thousands of people the story of my life and the impacts that mental illness has had on me; from emotional turmoil, to substance abuse, and even suicide attempts. After every time I have shared my story I have had person after person come up and tell me that my story was their story. That they felt shame for what was happening within themselves. Fear of being discovered. Feeling isolated just for taking medications or seeing a mental health practitioner.
We live in a fallen and broken world. And our brains are an organ. Sometimes our organs don't function in the ways they should. Without shame, many people take insulin to manage diabetes because their body isn't regulating itself well, Why should anyone else feel shame for going to a doctor for treatment of their mental health struggles as well? It is not a sin to be sick!
And just as a person would visit a Doctor for heart or lung issues, a person should never be forced to feel as if they are lacking in their faith in God just because they visited a Doctor for their mind.
Our churches and our communities need to be a safe place for everyone. Unless we tell the people around us that they are in a safe place, not just by our words but also through our actions, the assumption will be made that nothing has changed toward the stigma that surrounds the topic of mental health, resulting in the silent suffering of a community that desperately needs to hear the message of hope in that having a diagnosis doesn't exempt us from the love of God and a life filled with purpose.
We are here to help in sharing that message.
Founder ~ Mental Health Pulpit
"Not all problems can be solved. Every problem can be served."
~ Pastor Rick Warren