Today is the last day of May 2018, which closes out Mental Health Month here in the USA. We have taken time during this month to post regularly about mental health, and I encourage you to take a look back through this month’s blog series. Today, we’ll close the month with some “things to look for” as well as some “thing to do” to equip ourselves to care for mental health in our lives and in the lives of others.
Things to look for: How can we recognize mental health concerns?
Problems can sneak up on us. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking about, and how your important life relationships are going. For yourself and others, notice things like:
- Extreme changes in mood, such as excessive sadness or uncontrollable anxiety
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating, or learning
- Pervasive feelings of fear, anxiety, or anger
- Hurtful words or actions in a relationship, especially on a repeating basis
- Risky behaviors including alcohol or drug use, suicidal actions, or compulsive behaviors
Of course, many of these are normal life experiences – we all have days when we have trouble concentrating, or situations that make us feel very angry. But if a problem is new, happening in a chronic or uncontrollable way, or causing ongoing problems in life, this may indicate a mental health problem that needs support.
Things to do: How can we respond to mental health concerns?
Throughout this blog series, we’ve talked about strategies like focusing on your physical wellness (sleep, diet, exercise, stress) and investing in your relationships for care and compassion. If things are feeling more serious, then it’s time to schedule an appointment with your pastor, doctor, and/or to find a counselor. There are very successful treatments available, and Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that we all go through seasons, so this is not unusual.
We are also called to care for others who may be struggling. Here are three areas where you can help others who are struggling with their mental health:
- Help the individual. Offer support and encouragement. Chances are, if someone is struggling, they feel isolated, alone, and perhaps rejected. Please make sure to keep their information private – it is their story to share, not yours. (Unless you are concerned that they are going to harm themselves or someone else, at which point it is wise and good to involve professionals for help.)
- Help their family. You know that when someone you care about is hurting, you are hurting too. Offer care and support to the family members of those who are struggling. Validate their needs as a person and a family. You could offer to take a meal, babysit the kids, pray with them, or invite them to activities or events that encourage them. Don’t leave them alone with their struggle.
- Help the Church. Your local church, but also the worldwide Church, needs to be able to talk about mental health. The more that we talk about our struggles and point others to Jesus, the more we normalize the experience of struggling, seeking help, and finding hope and healing in the gospel. Jesus died for the salvation of your brothers and sisters in Christ, and if they are hurting, He is hurting with them. Let’s love one another well.
Additional resources: How do we handle a mental health crisis?
Don’t ignore warning signs and hope that they go away. Talk to people, ask questions, and use the available resources here in Florence.
Locally, there are great doctors and counselors available, including us here at iHope. You can reach us a (843) 702-0323.
Suicide Prevent Lifeline – call 24/7 for help: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There are online resources too.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI can link you with support and information. And the website Mental Health America can provide some great information as well.
SAMHSA’s National Hotline – call 24/7 for substance abuse and mental illness: 1-800-622-HELP (4357). There are good online search tools also available.
The Gospel Coalition has a wealth of Christian encouragement, including some articles specifically on mental health (like this one or perhaps this one).
God, of course, is our number one support. Open the Bible (the psalms and gospels are great places to zero in). Pray and talk with God. Go to church, find a small group of caring friends, and connect with your pastor for meaningful dialogue and help. God is our refuge. He is our salvation. He sees exactly what is happening. He hears the cry of your heart, and He answers. Turn to him.
Written by Jessica Hayes
iHope Executive Director