For so long this topic has been taboo, but it’s so good that people are growing in their courage to speak up.

Not only does it help those who are struggling, but it helps those who want to help, want to understand, but until now have not been able to.

Today I want to share my personal thoughts on the topic.

As a Christian, we often don’t want to put labels on mental health issues because we don’t want to give the conditions power. Whilst I understand that thinking, I do think it’s okay to define it if helps you combat it, so long as you don’t let it define you.

Just because you battle with something, or you have a tendency towards something, DOES NOT mean that you will be captive to it forever. When we identify cancer in our bodies, we do not declare defeat, but rather, we take appropriate steps. Mental health should be the same. We should not glorify mental health issues, but we should also not be shaming people for honestly admitting their struggles. After all, being honest and accountable is something that helps us move in the right direction.

I, myself, have experienced what it’s like to battle with depression, general anxiety and social anxiety. However, it was not until I reached an all-time low a number of years ago that I was able to put a name to the demons that had been harassing me since childhood, in the case of anxiety, and high school, in the case of depression.

Identifying and admitting what I was battling did not harm me, because I declared in my heart that God would heal me, and I was determined to play my part in that journey.

I was not going to stay sick, disabled, or dependent.

Instead, I would engage in a combination of faith steps and self-care (seeking professional help when required), that would ultimately see God heal me. And He did. Because He is faithful.

I can now say that I am happy and healthy.

Praise Jesus!

I am not who I was before.

While I can still struggle with social anxiety at times (when my general or social capacity is maxed out), and if I wasn’t to look after myself, my mind would still have a natural tendency towards depression and anxiety, I am NO LONGER a captive of those things. When those conditions think about rearing their ugly heads, I can now give them a roundhouse kick to the face and power on, living the life of adventure that God called me to live. I am strong and healthy, and my mind and body’s natural tendencies do not have the final say. I know that God is with me and I am an overcomer.

But how do I do this?

  1. I am able to keep my mental health in check through honest conversations with myself and those around me.
  2. I continue to challenge myself and grow myself at a pace that is healthy for me. I refuse to let these tendencies stop me from growing into who God has called me to be.
  3. I declare health over my life.
  4. I understand my personal capacity and allow myself the self-care time I need to handle the stretch that allows me to grow.
  5. When I feel that my head is not in a good place, I take a step back, get on my knees before God, and cry out for refreshment. I also make adjustments that need to be made.

What can you do if you know someone battling mental health issues?

  1. Don’t just tell them they’ll be fine or to snap out of it.
  2. Listen. Empathize with their emotions and let them know that they have truly been heard.
  3. Ask the right reflective questions to help them reach a place of understanding – a place that allows them to take a breath and take a small step in the right direction.
  4. If they are unable to reach that place instantly, be okay with that. Allow them to retreat (for a moment, a day or short season), and join them in self-care if they’re okay with the company.
  5. Continue to encourage them and invite them out – to one on one, small group and big group things – even if they decline. It will mean a lot to them to know that you love them and are supporting them on their journey.

Always remember:

– You ARE NOT your struggles. You CAN overcome them, and you ARE NOT defined by them.

– If God is with you, nothing is impossible.

And lastly, with 2018’s suicide of a pastor in mind, let’s all be reminded that mental health issues do not discriminate, and spiritual leaders often receive the biggest spiritual attacks. So let’s always be praying for our pastors and leaders, that God will protect their hearts and minds, and that they too will have the wisdom to know how to balance steps of faith and self-care in their own lives.

– WRITTEN BY EMILY BAXTER

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