Mental Health Awareness: Part 1

July 1, 2021
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May was National Mental Health Awareness month.

Believe it or not, the recognition started in 1949. Even with the “awareness,” we are still so far from addressing it for what it is.

What does mental health awareness mean? What is Mental Health?

“The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as 'a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'.”  Mental means the total emotional and intellectual response of an individual to external reality.  Putting this together, mental health is our ability to control or regulate how we think, how we feel physically and emotionally, and how we act in response to an external perceived reality.

In our culture, we do not put a lot of emphasis on behavioral health issues. There is such a stigma, a hush-hush mentality. We often stress the importance of our physical health and our spiritual health. When we have a headache, a cold, an illness, a broken bone or any other physical ailment what do we do? We go to the doctor, we seek medical advice, if we are in a good mental state, we may even pray about it. 

If we have an illness, like diabetes, cancer, or even that broken bone, we seek treatment, something to relieve the symptoms, to help us feel better. We take the medication the doctor prescribes, wear the cast for the broken bone, have the surgery that is recommended. 

Have you ever thought about your mental health in the same way as your physical health?

Many people lump mental health problems as being an issue of sin. If that were completely the case, it would be a choice. Can you think of a time that you’ve been sad, in grief, anxious, nervous, frustrated with the circumstances around you? I want you to dig deep down. Sure, those are “normal” feelings, and that’s just it, some of this is normal. 

What isn’t normal is when those “feelings” last longer than what is expected. When your daily life is altered and you are not able to function to the level you are expected to and you are unable to meet the demands of life. You don’t feel good about yourself or about others. It’s a scary place to be. 

Mental health issues stem from our genes or brain chemistry, our life experiences, and if there's a family history of problems. Many struggle with stress, sadness, grief, anxiety, nervousness, stress, guilt, shame, various addictions, trauma, relationship difficulties, financial issues, spiritual issues, and many other struggles.

The Bible teaches us about countless individuals who have struggled with their mental health.

Would you believe it if I listed a few names?  People like Abraham, David, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Jonah, and so many more. Even Jesus struggled, John 11:35, Jesus wept. None of these individuals are looked upon for their emotional struggles. They are looked upon for their faith, and for following through with what God desired of their lives. Even through their hardest emotional struggles, God was victorious and worked through them in their pain and struggle. 

Check out these verses: 

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Now these are just a few, but these verses acknowledge that we will be afraid and discouraged, feel hopeless or alone sometimes. These verses remind us that this world will bring us trouble, that we are going to have anxieties and fears. Ultimately, yes, we should lean on our heavenly Father to get through our struggles.

God also did not intend for us to live alone and get through life.

God has encouraged us to be in community. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”   Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This verse is often used for marriage.  It can also imply that it is our duty to help those in need. To be an ear to those in struggle. To direct them to help if they need it. 

If you need help, It is okay to seek it. It is okay to talk to someone, to seek guidance from a pastor, Sunday school teacher, counselor, or doctor. Know that you are chosen, you are loved, and we are here for you.

What next step do you need to take today for your mental health?

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