Living within the Body of Christ and the consumption of casseroles seem to go together. Many of us have benefitted from the delivery of casseroles (and other practical helps) when facing loss of a loved one or physical health. But when was the last time you heard of a meal being delivered to someone undergoing treatment for depression, addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or some other type of mental/emotional health issue? There’s a reason why mental illness is often called “the no casserole disease.”
I’m convinced that the absence of casseroles doesn't stem from a lack of caring. Rather, it stems from the lack of awareness as many in the Body of Christ keep to themselves about mental/emotional problems out of embarrassment and shame.
In the years that I experienced the difficulty of panic attacks that impacted my life in many ways, I felt very alone outside of the support of a very few people in my inner circle of family and friends. In some ways this was my own fault as I gave into the fear of being vulnerable with others. In some ways, it made perfect sense based on the kind of talk that I often heard from people within the church regarding how Christians view mental and emotional problems.
Let’s explore some of our assumptions and beliefs by comparing two common health problems - Diabetes (physical) and Depression (mental/emotional) and taking a look at ways in which we view these two problems differently.
Diabetes is often viewed as commonplace - not abnormal given the fact that we are Christians living in a broken world.
Depression is viewed as something that should be rare for Christians living in that same broken world.
The response to news of a diabetes diagnosis is most often, “Go see your doctor and be faithful in following the treatment protocols.”
The response to news of a depression diagnosis is “Go see your pastor and be skeptical about anyone who recommends treatment options involving psychological counseling or medication.”
Personal Responsibility & Accountability:
For the diabetic, we overlook, excuse and are hesitant to suggest accountability for personal behaviors that may contribute to the problem, such as overeating and sedentary living.
For the person with depression, we often feel compelled to suggest taking a personal spiritual inventory and encourage them to be intentional about dealing with possible contributing factors, such as an undisciplined thought life, bitterness, negativity or thoughts of doubt or unbelief.
This dichotomy of responses to the person with diabetes versus the person with depression may expose a hidden assumption that the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual can be compartmentalized and are independent of each other. This type of thinking leads us to act as if the root cause of physical health problems is primarily physical, while the root cause of mental/emotional health problems is primarily spiritual.
In this world, our existence is physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual. These three aspects of our being are part of our existence everywhere we go. In this life, they cannot be separated and each aspect has an impact on the others.
Taking a whole person view of health helps us to challenge the unhealthy ease of acceptance of physical health problems and the unhealthy embarrassment and shame that often surrounds mental/emotional health problems.
The rise mental/emotional health struggles have been well documented during this pandemic period. In fact, the coroner in my community has issued a dire warning about the upcoming fall and winter based on a 23% increase in suicide compared to last year. Consider the following action steps that will help us to demonstrate the love of Christ by better supporting ourselves, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our employees struggling in the area of mental/emotional health.
As a child of God who is struggling right now:
As a member of the Body of Christ who knows someone who is struggling right now:
As a leader in a Christian organization with employees who may be struggling right now:
Good Health for Good Works Challenge: Look around in your world and identify someone who you think may be struggling with mental/emotional health issues right now - it may be you, someone close to you, or a co-worker. Take one of the action steps listed above to demonstrate the love of Christ by supporting them in their struggle.
If your Christian organization could use some assistance in examining and creating a work culture that is supportive of employee well-being, please contact me.
About the author:
Ginger Hill is a Christian wellness speaker, coach and consultant and the founder of Good Health for Good Works where she helps the earnest, but often exhausted, workers in Christian organizations to take steps toward healthier living so they can fulfill their organization's mission with energy, excellence and endurance.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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