6 Effective Strategies to Find Hope and Healing
While facing mental health challenges
Angela struggled with anxiety and depression throughout her adult life. It started in her twenties after her mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. A few close friends as well as medical professionals often encouraged her to seek professional help, but she refused. During the onset of COVID-19, another tragic loss in her family sent her into a devastating spin. Raised in church, she found it difficult to be open with others in her church community about her struggles, but she reluctantly and courageously spoke to her pastor.
Her pastor listened closely. Then he admitted this was beyond his scope of expertise, but immediately made a phone call and helped her schedule an appointment with a medical professional.
According to research from NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Health), 1 in 5 Americans face some form of mental illness each year – that includes Christians. According to a study by Lifeway Research, just over half (59%) of the pastors reported they have counseled someone with a mental illness, who was later diagnosed with mental illness.
Mental health struggles are common among Christians, but a stigma and lack of understanding in the church can prevent people from seeking help from those in their faith community.
As you read this, you may be experiencing mental health challenges today – grief, trauma, depression and anxiety. You may feel pressure to appear happy and faithful and may struggle with stigma surrounding mental health issues in your faith community. But the truth is that mental health challenges are common and can affect anyone, regardless of their faith or background. So, let’s look at six ways to find hope and healing in the midst of mental health challenges.
- Acknowledge the Reality of Your Struggles.
Perhaps your first inclination is to deny or minimize your struggle, but doing so only prolongs your suffering and prevents you from getting the support and help you really need. You may feel pressure to appear strong for fear that others might perceive your faith as lacking. Mental health challenges are not because you lack faith nor are they a sign of weakness or lack of faith. They are a normal part of the human experience and require help and support to overcome.
Acknowledging the reality of your struggles is a brave and necessary step towards healing. Give yourself permission to feel – allowing yourself to experience a range of emotions, such as sadness, anger or fear, without judgment or self-criticism. And be honest about your struggles, giving voice to them by talking about them with someone you trust. Expressing your feelings and experiences verbally can open the door to receiving empathy and validation from someone who cares about you. Sharing your struggles can also help you to identify the support and resources you need to heal.
2. Seek Support from Your Faith Community.
Your faith community can be a powerful source of support and encouragement during hard times. Individuals you trust can provide emotional support and prayer during difficult seasons. Some churches offer support groups or counseling services for individuals and families affected by mental illness. These resources should provide a safe space to share your struggles, connect with others who are going through similar experiences and learn coping skills and strategies for managing your mental health. And if they don’t offer support or services, most churches have a list of professionals they can refer you to.
Your faith community may not always understand your mental health challenges, and they may not have all the answers or solutions. But their support can help you to feel less alone and can provide a sense of comfort and hope. It’s also an opportunity to educate others about mental health issues and reduce stigma within your faith community.
3. Find Comfort in Scripture.
Scripture is always a place to look to for comfort and inspiration. Many Bible verses speak to issues such as anxiety, depression and grief, and can offer insight and hope during difficult times. Consider reading Psalms 23 and 139, Philippians 4:6-7 and Isaiah 41:10 for encouragement.
Psalm 23 will remind you that even in the darkest of times, you are not alone. God as your Shepherd leads you and restores your soul. No matter how difficult your struggles may be, He is with you, and will guide you towards peace and healing.
Philippians 4:6-7 points you toward God in prayer, especially when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, and encourages you to trust that He will provide you with His peace and comfort.
Isaiah 41:10 is another powerful passage to turn to during difficult times. It says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (NIV). It is your promise from Him that you are not alone, and that He will give you the strength and help you need.
Psalm 139 confirms God knows you intimately like no one else does or can. It says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb … I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well” (NIV). You can God’s plan for your life.
4. Practice Self-Care.
Staying fit requires you to pay attention to your personal needs. Sleep, good nutrition, regular exercise and activities that offer a chance for you to relax and also experience joy help you to stay in shape physically, mentally and emotionally.
Consider practicing self-compassion and forgiveness and prioritize your well-being to better manage your mental health struggles. If self-compassion is a new term for you, it means to be kind and forgiving to yourself, and avoid negative self-talk. Treat yourself as you would a friend and offer yourself compassion and patience. It’s human nature to make mistakes and feel the need to express difficult emotions.
5. Seek Professional Help.
If you are struggling with mental health challenges that are affecting your daily life, seeking professional help is an important step towards finding hope and healing. While seeking help may feel scary or overwhelming, it is a brave and necessary step towards improving your mental health and overall well-being.
There are several types of mental health professionals that you may consider seeking help from. When seeking professional help, it’s important to find a mental health professional who is trained and experienced in treating your specific mental health challenges. It’s also important to find a mental health professional who you feel comfortable talking to and who you trust.
Your primary care physician may be able to provide a referral to a mental health professional, or you can search for mental health professionals in your area using online directories or referrals from friends and family.
6. Utilize Faith-Based Resources.
Many faith-based resources are available for anyone struggling with mental health challenges. Consider that referral list mentioned earlier that many churches have of local resources.
If you are struggling to find support within your faith community, many Christian organizations offer support groups, workshops, and educational resources specifically for individuals with mental health challenges. These resources can provide a sense of community and understanding and can help you to integrate your faith into your healing journey.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) FaithNet: NAMI FaithNet is a network of faith-based organizations that provides resources and support for people with mental illness and their families. They offer educational materials, support groups and training for clergy and congregations.
Mental Health Grace Alliance: The Mental Health Grace Alliance is a Christian organization that provides resources and support for people with mental health challenges. They offer peer support groups, online courses and coaching for individuals and families.
Hope for Mental Health: Hope for Mental Health is a Christian organization founded by pastor Rick and Kay Warren that seeks to provide support and education for people with mental health challenges. They offer resources, online support groups and a network of churches committed to mental health ministry.
These are just a few examples of the faith-based resources available for Christians struggling with mental health challenges. It’s important to find the resources that are best suited to your individual needs and circumstances, and to seek support and guidance from trusted sources.
Other ideas to help you improve your mental health and overall well-being:
- Volunteer at a local charity or non-profit organization or get involved in a service project through your church.
- Join a small group or Bible study at your church.
- Reach out to someone you trust for support.
- Practice gratitude to shift your focus away from negative thoughts and towards positive ones.
- Keep a gratitude journal or write down things that you are thankful for each day.
- Look for ways to make a positive impact through your job.
- Help a neighbor with a task.
- Volunteer at your church or child’s school. Small acts of service can add up and make a big difference.
Perhaps you don’t personally struggle with mental health, chances are you know someone who does and may be asking, “What can I do?” Here are some practical suggestions for encouraging people struggling with their mental health:
- Normalize seeking help.
Remind people that mental health challenges are common, and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Encourage them to share their struggles with a trusted friend or family member and to seek professional help if needed.
- Provide information on available resources.
Share information about mental health resources, such as support groups, counseling services and helplines. You can also offer to help them find resources in their area or to accompany them to their first appointment.
- Be non-judgmental and supportive.
Let people know that you care about them and that you are there to support them. Listen without judgment and offer empathy and validation. Let them know that it’s okay to not be okay and that help is available.
- Encourage self-care.
Encourage people to prioritize their self-care and to engage in activities that bring them joy and relaxation. Offer to do something together that you know they enjoy, such as going for a walk, watching a movie or doing a craft.
- Check in regularly.
Follow up with people regularly to see how they are doing and to remind them that you are there for them. Offer to be a listening ear or to help them find additional resources if needed.
Remember, reaching out for help can be scary and vulnerable, but it’s essential for recovery and healing. By offering support and encouragement, you can help someone take the first step towards getting the help they need.
The article above is intended to provide general guidance and support for anyone facing mental health challenges. The article is not intended to replace or substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should not be used as such.
If you are experiencing mental health challenges or have concerns about your mental health, it is important to seek the advice of a licensed mental health professional. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or mental health disorder.