There is a growing global mental health movement around the world today, and the global church is beginning to recognize mental health problems as a major ministry priority. There is much the church can do that doesn’t require a lot of extra resources.
By Gladys Mwiti and Bradford Smith for Lausanne Movement
Mental health issues are the leading cause of disability worldwide. More disabling than conditions like heart disease, stroke, or diabetes, they are usually the result of a combination of many factors, including family environment, biology, personality, spirituality, and challenging community contexts – including poverty and violence. Increasingly, the impacts of traumatic events such as childhood abuse, interpersonal violence, or natural disasters are also being recognized as major causes of mental health problems.
Churches, as communities of faith, can play a key role in providing a safe space and help in times of need.
We often think only of one-on-one counseling as the best approach to addressing needs. However, community-based approaches are increasingly being identified as essential to addressing the need on a global level; and churches can provide community and assistance.
Mental health care is rooted in Scripture and part of our responsibility of carrying out the mission of Jesus on earth:
- The prophet Isaiah described part of the mission of the coming Messiah “to bind up the brokenhearted” (61:1).
- Jeremiah wrote of the Messiah: “I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow” (31:13).
- In the New Testament, we see that, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).
Until recently, this important issue has not received the attention it needs from the church or secular society. This has left thousands of people with mental health problems stigmatized or judged as spiritually deficient.