Written by: Dcs. Heidi Goehmann I have to say it, I, for one, am so excited to see the open window for mental health in our culture and in our churches, recently. I see more and more posts on mental health care on the web, the Synod has a task force for domestic violence and abuse, there are conferences and committees to address support and care. This, my friends, is a long time in coming. Two years ago at a conference I heard a speaker call mental health the “mission field of the 21st Century”. I could not agree more. It is time. The silence has lasted long enough. The darkness of despair and anxiety and struggle has been overcome by the blood of the Lamb. He waits with healing and grace. We can be that voice of grace for those around us. But how does that work? What does grace look like when it’s living and active and poured out, particularly in the realm of mental health? Here are some suggestions for churches, church workers, and any one of us ready to answer the call to Grace for the hurting. John 1:16 tells us that we have all received grace upon grace. Praise be to God that we can let that grace roll out onto all of those around us! FIND OUT MORE It’s easy to assume that we know. We’ve read a few blog articles about depression, so we “get” mental health. But the needs in mental health are so much broader and wider. Here is just a tiny list of struggles that can be addressed in grace: Anxiety – an estimated 10-18% of the population identifies a diagnosable struggle with anxiety, myself included! Depression – including seasonal, major depressive episodes, and postpartum Autism Spectrum and other sensory processing Learning disabilities Sexual abuse and assault Domestic violence Trauma of all sorts Bipolar Schizophrenia Addictions Eating disorders This list is not meant to be exclusive. I could go on and on. What struggle knocks on the door of your heart? Find out more, ask questions, use appropriate terminology and language. Educate others on the issue and just be mindful that these are not random and rare isues in people’s lives. They are much more common than we think, for those inside the Church, as well as those disconnected from the Church. Grace – reaching out by learning and growing. OFFER COMMUNITY Mental health can be one of the loneliest places on earth. Whether the stigma is real or imagined or both, it’s not something we talk about in our culture and our churches. Burst open the door! Make your church, your home, your small group a place where it is talked about, prayed for, and actively reaching out. We, as a church, have the amazing opportunity to be a family to those who feel lonely, distressed, and even tormented. It is time to bury the idea that we are unsafe around people with diagnoses. Those with severe and persistent diagnoses need us even more! Research shows that community and social support is one of the largest indicators of success in mental health treatment. People take needed medicines when they have loving friends who check in on them and ask hard questions. People can break the chains of addiction when there are people who do not give up on them. Grace – offering community, even when it’s hard. SPEAK FORGIVENESS AND LIFE AND GOD’S CONSTANT PURSUIT OF US Psalm 104:4 – “Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…” Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus forgives anything we have done or left undone. So many people need to hear these words from the mouth of a living and breathing person. They need to know that God does not give up on them, that He pursues and pursues. That He runs down the road with His robes flying about, waiting to embrace us. Many people that struggle with mental health wonder about their worthiness. It is easy for even anxiety to ostracize people from the love God is trying to pour into them. Individuals often feel afraid to admit that they are afraid when well meaning people cite Scripture that tells us not to be afraid! Share verses that share Who God is, rather than what people should do. This will be Grace for the weary soul. LOVE, LOVE, AND MORE LOVE Some people are hard to love. Some people are worried that they are hard to love. Some people have a hard time loving. We can let God fill us with His love and then we can share it, even when it gets hard. What does love look like? Sometimes it looks like pouring out affection and time and energy, and sometimes it looks like hard boundaries spoken firmly, but kindly. This is Grace, speaking the Truth in love. BE FAITHFUL Loyalty is hard when relationships so often disappoint us. People will never be perfect, they will never love perfect or talk perfect or follow through perfect. We have the same Grace that we get to offer others. Often times, people want to give up, both those struggling with mental health issues and those supporting them. Families of those with mental health struggles perhaps need the most support and encouragement. We can love by being true to our promises and not giving up. We can give grace by being someone’s personal encourager and sounding board and safe place. When the going gets tough, the tough pour on more Grace. What an awesome season the Lord has before us! We as a church stand in the midst of a perfect time to be real and in tune with the needs of those around us. Bring on the Grace church! Bring on the Grace.