The Church’s Role In Addressing Mental Health Challenges Amongst Believers

By Chaplain Simbarashe Chenjerai

The world is facing a plethora of challenges such wars, famines, unemployment, droughts, cyclones among other ills. This has resulted in a number of public health challenges including mental health related woes. Over the years, there has been an increase in the incidence of drug and substance abuse, depression, anxiety among other mental health challenges. It is against this background that this article seeks to explore the role of the Church in addressing the growing mental health scourge.

Christians and believers are not immune to mental health challenges, hence the need for the church to play its part in being a change agent by providing platforms and structures that can help to prevent, curb and restore sanity to those affected and infected by mental health challenges.

A Church is a worshipping community preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  ( Eiwell :1973). People are the focus and the subject as such, the modus operandi of the Church is to ensure their mental health is in check. By Church, this writer refers to the Body of Christ(All denominations, sects and ministries). Mental wellness is about having emotional, psychological aspects such as thoughts , feelings and behaviour in check. If these are not balanced,the gospel will not make any difference in humanity.

Be content with what you have

Matthew 6:25 points out that people should not worry about food, clothes,and drink for God cares for us.  Correct as it is, the role of the Church in such  a scenario is to teach people to be content and not compete because such competition lead to the worry rebuked in the scripture stressed above. In trying to quench their insatiable appetite for resources, people can spend sleepless nights and restless days.This can cause mental health issues.

Greediness is one aspect Church should preach against as it builds up to anxiety and depression which are culprits to mental health challenges.Mahoney (1993:57) postulates that about 30% of mental health challenges(mhc) result from uncontrolled emotions. Emotions when uncontrolled, can make rowdy behaviours besides anxiety as prior mentioned. If the church is to be relavant today, it should aquatint itself with these and find ways to tackle them accordingly.

Counseling and psychosocial support in the church

It should be noted that not only Prayer can change situations and people but also “round table ecclesiology” as argued by Watson (2003). Counseling services by professionals may be organised by Churches as denominations of fratenals so that affected and infected by mhc can be assisted. At conferences , workshops can be organized where gurus in the healthcare can be invited to address Mental health challenges. Social and cultural norms and expectations also infer on people’s wellness because they worry about what to say, what to wear, when to get married etc.Trying to meet these societal expectations may have negative effects than intended.

The Church as an advocate for mental health policies

The Church may be any an agent towards the recovery of mental health issues victims by advocating for laws and policies that are inclusive. Laws that are inhibitive and leave room for gender imbalances should be repealed so that peace and love prevail in society with the body of Christ captaining this Ship through local authorities and legislators. Awareness campaigns by means of marches with Church leaders in cahoots with Police, councillors and medical practitioners can be done with little costs involved. Such cooperation can help on conscientising the Church about mental health. Hoseah 4:6 says people perish because of lack of knowledge!

Encouraging human and social interaction among congregants

Isolation is another concern in humanity. Individuals tend to be so reserved either due to childhood traumatic experiences or stigma. The Church should be the bridge by facilitating social activities such as ball games, dances and music in communities in liason with local authorities and traditional leaders. This enhances interaction and occupancy of the youths who may indulge in drug and substance abuse which can cause not only isolation, substance abuse but also unwanted pregnancies. The results of these may lead to mental health issues.

Some Church doctrines leading to mental berakdown of congregants

This writer speaking with no strings attached has it in good authority through research that some Churches instead of being advocates of mental health, they are actually perpetrators of the causes of the prior. Such examples include those whose doctrines allows child marriages, suspension of those who fail to do “white weddings” even after lobola payments or those who elope (kutizira). 

The victims will either suffer in cacoons or will meet the wrath of the doctrines of which instead of bringing positive results, they end up affecting mental wellness of the Church members in question. It is good for the Church to revise some of the archaic doctrines and Constitutions because dynamism in lifestyles brings about change in the way things are done otherwise failure to adopt to change may cause change to adopt the Body of Believers must not suffer ” in the name of Jesus!”. Counseling should be a priority besides preaching the Gospel because the complexity of challenges bedeviling humanity are too much to cope with and still be mentally healthy. Job of the Bible faced similar challenges but was counseled by Elihu (Job 37:71), Apostle Paul counseled Timothy and advised him to drink wine as medicine for his stomach ache(      )and Epaphroditus to have time to rest and not risk his health in serving Chris( Philippians 2:29-30. The Church can take some nuggets from these counsels which portray the Church as a caring community worried about issues affecting both society and membership.

Chronic health conditions among believers

Chronic conditions can cause mental health challenges as some diseases can cause depression because of concern and worry.It is ideal for such members to be encouraged to get medical services than only praying for them and declaring them “healed” because some of them might not have that faith in Devine healing though Devine healing is very Biblical. ( James 5:13). Rehab centres fro victims should me made accessible even at Churches so that before and after Church services locals ( believers and none believers) may get help through the Church. Funding of such servicescanbe accessed chealply as compared to buying state of the art Church instruments and vehicles for the church at the expense of ailing society.

However , despite the areas highlighted by this writer regarding his opinion on how the Church( body of Christ) can be the change agent towards recovery of those affected by mental health issues, there are special mention of how some are already into mission Hospitals offering services at lower costs than conventional Hospitals making them accessible too.Zaoga FIF’s Mbuya Docas Hospital in waterfalls, Catholic’s Murambinda Hospital in Buhera, Salvation Army’s Karanda Mission in Rushings, AFM in Zimbabwe’s Manhinga Orphanage Home to name but a few. Though the mentioned may not be directly serving the mental health challenges but addressing the causes ( proactive) is better than trying to cure the challenges ( reactive).If chronic illnesses, orphans are   catered for, then indirectly the church is in a positive direction towards the cause. 

In succinct, mental health is the desire of many but the societal challenges have enhanced chronic conditions, anxiety, isolation, traumatic experiences and some inhibitive laws which have resulted in mental health challenges. Combined efforts led or organized by the Church may help in the recovery and prevention same. These efforts as earlier alluded include among others awarenesses, workshops, marches, prayer, social activities and lobbying for enforcemen and or repealing of laws that are inhibitive to mental health and wellness. If not much investment is put into this, the Church will preach to the “graves”.

 

Disclaimer: Simbarashe Chenjerai
writes in his own capacity. He is 
a Chaplain, Author, Inspirational 
speaker, Pastor, Leadership Coach,
Technocrat among other
qualifications.
He can be contacted on 
Call/WhatsApp :+263772889002, 
chaplainspchenjerai@gmail.com

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