May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. At Josh McDowell Ministry, we are passionate about helping people to get the support they need for these complex issues.
In recent years, mental health issues have risen among young people. In fact, seventy percent of teens say anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers. (1) Between 2007 and 2015, emergency room visits for suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide doubled among children and teens. (2) Clearly, we are living in a chaotic time of loneliness, hurt, and struggles.
I personally experienced mental health issues for years. By the age of eight, I was riddled with anger, feelings of worthlessness, depression, and anxiety. When I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I felt that life had become close to unbearable.
I began to doubt that God existed, and I feared that He would reject me when I died. For almost a decade I obsessed about going to hell, sometimes praying upwards of twenty times a day that Jesus would save my soul. I began to wish that I had never been born, because that would have been easier than the torture and fear I experienced on a daily basis. I was caught in a brutal, hopeless, obsessive cycle of fear.
At times, I could barely sleep for days due to the intensity of my anxiety. Other times, I felt deep sorrow for seemingly no reason. To try to put this into words, the grief I felt was on par with what I think it’d be like to lose all of my close friends to a tragic accident, and the concepts of hope and happiness no longer existed. My emotional pain was so drastic at times that I feared I’d attempt suicide.
Throughout my years of battling mental health issues, I wish I had known the five key truths I share with you in this post. Whether you or someone you know is facing mental health issues, I hope these truths bring you deeper understanding and hope.
1. Nothing Is “Wrong” With You
It’s easy to think you got the shaft in life, that you just got dealt a bad hand, or that there is something faulty with you. We often buy into shame or the belief that something is wrong with who we are. This often only further reinforces our struggles with mental health issues, leading to greater hopelessness. But we must remember that our identity does not lie in our status, emotions, achievements, or struggles, but in who God says we are. We are not defined by our struggles. We are defined by our identity as human beings made in the image of God. We are defined by the radical love Jesus has for us.We must remember that our identity does not lie in our status, emotions, achievements, or struggles, but in who God says we are. Click To Tweet
2. It’s Ok to Seek Professional Help and Take Medication
The fields of psychology and medicine are gifts from God to us. When we are physically ill, we often have no qualms about going to the doctor. When we break a bone, we are quick to visit the emergency room to get help. So why is it often seen as taboo or a weakness when we seek help for our mental health? Be wary of those who over-spiritualize solutions to mental illness. God can heal through supernatural means, but He also provides help and healing through psychology and medicine. Even the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to seek a type of medication for his stomach ailment in wine (1 Timothy 5:23).Be wary of those who over-spiritualize solutions to mental illness. God can heal through supernatural means, but He also provides help and healing through psychology and medicine. Click To Tweet
3. Often, Mental Health Issues Aren’t Random
While I’m not a mental health counselor, and psychologists aren’t fully in agreement on any one cause of mental health issues, many times these issues are developed as a result of painful or stressful experiences. (3)(4) This was the case in my own life and in the lives of others I’ve led through support groups. When we started to understand what we had been through in life, we realized that our mental health issues weren’t random. These issues were developed as coping mechanisms to survive turbulent times of hardship. Our brains were literally rewired to manage the stresses and pain we experienced. Because of that, we continued to have similar responses to new stressful situations that came up.
4. Understanding Triggers Can Lead to Transformation
Mental health issues actually serve an important purpose in our life. In my life, anxiety serves me by attempting to protect me from feeling unsafe and rejected. Anxiety can be brought on in a moment by the thought of loss, failure, or embarrassment and spiral out of control. Depression can creep up after experiencing rejection from someone or feeling hopeless about life circumstances. We can find understanding as we identify the fears, stresses, and particular situations that trigger our struggles. We often have situations in life that trigger, or bring on, more intense mental health episodes. But we can experience transformation as we challenge those fears and lies we may be believing about what is true of us.
5. It Gets Better and Can Be Overcome
As I shared earlier, for years I was crippled by anxiety, depression, Tourettes, ADHD, OCD, and other mental health issues. Most of these are now minimal issues in my life as I’ve worked through extensive therapy to identify the triggers, understand and challenge the lies, and invite Jesus and others to be part of my healing journey. Through many experiences with God and others I’ve now started to believe more and more the truth that I’m accepted, not rejected.
I’ve had new experiences of challenging these triggers and lies, rather than throwing in the towel and letting the anxiety, depression, and obsessions run wild. As we make the conscious decision to wire out old patterns of thinking and respond to lies with truth, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds, as Romans 12:2 says. We can create new default brain pathways of responding to stress, pain, and difficulties in life that allows life to get easier to handle.As we make the conscious decision to wire out old patterns of thinking and respond to lies with truth, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds as Romans 12:2 says. Click To Tweet
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, check out josh.org/counseling for professional resources. Also, check out the FASTER Scale to consider how circumstances and challenges in your life may be triggering your struggles.