World Mental Health Day
Those with mental illness, feelings of failure or inadequacy, any amount of self-doubt, or healing from trauma will rarely “reach out”. They may be still processing their experiences, and before explaining their thoughts and feelings they need to admit those experiences to themselves. Those experiences can be sad, embarrassing, shocking, ugly, horrific, and terrifying - talking about them would mean admitting the reality of it all, having to relive those memories, ...and that’s only the beginning of a long, painful journey to healing.
Rather than telling someone to “reach out”, before they’re desperate, before they’re too ashamed to ask, simply be there for them. Telling them to “reach out” is, to them, overwhelming and can only make them feel more frustrated and left alone. If you don’t know what to say, say that. Tell them you don’t know what to say but that you’re willing to listen and support them as they need. Then stick with them - they need to know they matter.
Saying “don’t be anxious about anything...” isn’t helpful either. Anxiety, depression, traumatic experiences, or mental illness just is - a broken leg cannot be healed by just telling it not to be broken. Jesus is our healer and prayer is important, but healing also takes energy, guts, failures and learning. It’s hard work.
Seemingly “happy” people who are struggling hide their true emotions to save themselves from having to explain. They’re not likely to be honest, reveal what they’re really feeling. And because they don’t want to be a burden they keep everything inside. Their secrets are too complicated or too dark to admit.
Those of us who are “on stage”, such as pastors, musicians, speakers, authors, counselors,... those of us who are depended on to help, feel that much more pressure to be perfect. Once we leave the comfort of our homes, the pressure to be perfect and the expectation to be available to everyone else is intense. We’re all “on stage” - mine just happens to be literal. Thank those who you look up to today for what they bring to your life - they need to hear it.
Suicide prevention hotlines and support groups have their place and they do enormous good - thank you to all who take the time to work and volunteer in this important work.
But there is more we can (and should) do for those we love. If Jesus walked among us today, he would go after the one who is missing, the one in need (the 1 lost sheep). He would not approach someone who is struggling and give them a Suicide Prevention Hotline business card then carry on his way. He would find them, sit down next to them, listen, and love them. He would gather his disciples and church to support them as well.
Before they feel the need to call for help, be there.
Before everything that might come, be there.
If you love them, be in their lives. Be intentional. Spend time with them. Make time for them. Be the first to text them. Be the first to ask them out for lunch or coffee. Be the first to ask about their day. Be the first to listen, as awkward as it might be, without correction or judgement. Be the first to reaffirm their gifts and strengths. Be the first to offer a hand of practical help in using your own gifts. In a nutshell, be the first to LOVE them. Be “Jesus” to them, showing them their value in His eyes. And do all of this often.
Go and love...
“You are my disciples if you love one another.”
-Jesus (John 13:34-35)
“Tell Me” is truly a diary song. I wrote it while admitting my need for help with my anxiety and depression diagnosis, but also in coping with trauma from emotional and sexual abuse in the music industry. The abuse only increased my mental and emotional struggle.