Has anyone ever approached you saying they think they might be depressed? How should we respond when this happens?
When a person experiences pain, we urge them to consult a doctor.
When a person is prescribed medicine to get better, we take it as part of the process to regain physical health.
When a friend gets diagnosed with a critical illness, we empathize and offer whatever help we can give so they can fight back.
We fully support a physically ill person’s road to recovery. And yet, mental illness remains a stigma or a mystery for many of us.
In the past few years, mental health awareness has been on the rise. Nowadays, it’s no longer surprising when a friend comes up to us and says, “I think I might be depressed.” Because clinical depression or any mental illness is as serious a matter as any physical ailment, we need to respond to it in the same way.
Being sick is never a good experience. You feel helpless and unproductive. You have to deal with not just the pain, but even the frustration when it seems you’re not getting better. But what makes it bearable is a caring person’s presence and unconditional love.
When we have colds, what relief a bowl of soup lovingly cooked for us brings. What comfort loving care is in the midst of our grumpiness and complaints. What solace soft words, loving touch, and prayer bring when we are drowning in pain.
What’s not helpful when we are sick? Getting nagged for not being careful enough with our health that eventually led to illness. When we get accused of feigning sickness just to get out of responsibilities. When we are trying to nurse ourselves back to health because no one is around to help us, even if we could barely move.
What then is our role in a person’s healing and recovery from mental illness? It’s no different from our role when someone is physically sick. Most of the time, our presence, a listening ear, an understanding heart, and unconditional love are all that is needed for the pain and suffering to be bearable. Let’s spare them from judgment, accusation, and abandonment.
Because mental illness usually involves a chemical imbalance, there may be a need to take medication in order for hormones to reach a healthy level again.
Medication is as important as emotional healing and spiritual renewal. Counseling is important. Praying for healing is necessary. Helping them understand God’s truth that leads to a renewal of mind is great.
The point is, God’s healing is holistic. He desires shalom for us–a wholeness of body and mind. We can’t say that any approach is more important or effective than the other. Rather, we determine what needs to be addressed and the right steps for it.
When a friend comes to us and says, “I think I might have cancer,” we can’t just simply agree based on their self-assessment, unless we’re a trained professional.
At the end of the day, we listen and pray, but most importantly, we don’t give a diagnosis. Rather, we encourage them to seek professional help. It is a loving thing to make sure they get a reliable diagnosis.
Speaking of a reliable diagnosis, it’s always good to consider seeking two or more professional opinions, just like with any illness. A professional may have more expertise than most of us, but their knowledge can also be limited. Encourage your friend to find a professional they are most comfortable with.
Jesus Christ came so that healing can be possible for everyone who is sick—the lame, the blind, the leper, the paralyzed, and the mentally disturbed.
If you are suffering from mental illness, your healing is not beyond God’s power. If your friend or family member is going through mental illness, we can believe with them for full recovery and journey with them through it.
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