Like many others over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of the silence that surrounds the issue of mental health in the church. Yet, if we are honest we know that everyone (including Christians) have something they desperately need to deal with and conquer.
An Epidemic Of Hurting People
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. About 2.4 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia. Nearly 6.1 million live with a bipolar disorder, 16 million suffer from major depression and 42 million live with an anxiety disorder. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. The fact is that serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year. 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And these figures are just those that have been documented.
There’s an untold number of people who “suffer in silence” in our families, schools, and places of employment. Yet the thing that concerns me and many others is that many are uncomfortable disclosing their pain and personal struggles within our churches. They fear being misunderstood, labeled and unfairly judged in the very place where they should find understanding, grace, healing, and hope.
What Can You and I Do?
As Christians, we must ask ourselves “Can we be equipped to deal with this flood of hurting people?”
The short answer? Absolutely.
The longer answer? Read on to find out how.
Over the past few months, I hope that you’ve heard some chatter about the AACC’s The Struggle is Real Conference. We were privileged to attend the event in Lynchburg, VA. Since Carolyn and I have both earned our biblical counseling diplomas from Light University this was an opportunity to gain more insight and meet other like-minded Christians who desire to minister to those who suffer in our churches. We came away from the conference encouraged, educated, equipped and empowered to help others through God’s word and practical ministry.
Mental Health and Mission
“Imagine church members, pastors, small group leaders, counselors, mental health advocates, coaches, crisis responders, chaplains and more coming together to have a new conversation and learn together about “Mental Health and the Mission of the Church.” One thing is certain — the struggle of dealing with the pain, pace, and pressure of everyday life is real.” – Dr. Tim Clinton
AACC is the world’s leading Christian counseling organization and is doing something about breaking the silence and the social stigma surrounding mental illness – especially for those in the church. They are providing a much-needed avenue of grace, help, and hope for those who are struggling and for their loved ones. “The Struggle is Real Summit” Conference was built around the topic of “Mental Health and the Mission of the Church”. While these meetings are held across the country this was the first time it had been held in Lynchburg, VA. It attracted leading Christian counselors, medical professionals and ministry leaders from all over the east coast. The plenary speakers were outstanding. They included seasoned clinicians, psychiatrists, educators, pastors, and ministry leaders such as Jonathan Falwell, Ed Stetzer, Tim Clinton, Josh McDowell, Warren Kinghorn, Tim Jennings, Diane Langberg, Ron Hawkins, Siang-Yang Tan and others.
“The Struggle is Real Summit” included focused workshops on topics such as addiction, grief, and loss, codependency, pre-marital counseling, family health, establishing lay counseling ministries, healthy sexuality, military and trauma, the role of medication and psychiatry, suicide, and more.
In addition to the powerful plenary sessions featuring some of the world’s leading experts, there were 15 pre-conference workshops and an additional 32 counseling workshops during the conference. Hundreds of resource materials were available for purchase that covered nearly every aspect of mental health, abuse, and coaching. Various ministries were also on site with information and materials as well. While the spotlight was on mental health, we also heard from various representatives such as Compassion International and the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
I hope that you will also join the ranks of God’s people who will be brave enough to initiate the conversation surrounding the issues of mental health and abuse in the church and equip yourselves to care for people God’s way. The “Break Every Chain” World Conference will be held on September 27th -30th 2017 at Opryland Hotel in Nashville TN.