As Christians, we need to do more in relation to mental health.
I have always been interested in mental health since being a medical student and this has continued into my career as a GP and now a Christian. Recently I have felt increasingly that we as a Church are being called to step up in the healthcare arena particularly around mental health issues. Since finding faith a little over 2 years ago my heart has been transformed and increasingly aches for those who are oppressed by their illness. The recent show up weekend opened with a talk based around Isaiah 58 and the message I took from this was that we are called to worship through compassionate service for the oppressed. I feel that is exactly what we as Christians can offer those with mental ill health directly but more importantly influence through involvement in strategic political decisions.
I see so many whose issues are beyond my ability as a GP or even the wider healthcare system to deal with, these are societal problems and therefore the whole community needs to play it's part in how we help. The majority of mental ill health is established in childhood so education absolutely needs to be involved. However there are so many aspects to this puzzle that the ultimate answer is a political one, and at the highest level too. When so many of the societal factors are linked to poverty and inequality this is where the discussions need to be had and influenced.
Thoughts along these lines have led to an increasing personal engagement outside the surgery to try and get the message across and having been fortunate to be on the receiving end of medical and leadership training from the NHS and RAF I had lots of ideas about what I wanted to do. It was with the show up campaign (and book) that I really felt God pushing me to stand up and act. A confluence of factors had brought me to working in the heart of the community that I am raising my family in along with opportunities to strategically influence the care provided locally. It also pushed me to call on those with whom I had built relationships to join me in doing something. This led to establishing a mental health forum for professionals, carers, service users and frankly anyone with an interest in mental health to better our town through improved mental health care. It has started well with a good number coming to our first meeting with less than 2 weeks notice. The next has already attracted County level interest as well as a wider group of residents who want their voice to be listened to in a safe space knowing they will be heard.
As Christians we know we are all broken but do we give people a safe enough space to come and reveal their hidden brokenness? Could this start with a shift in Church culture?
I recently heard somewhere that we should plan so big that the only way it can happen is if God shows up. I think influencing and bettering our whole society through improved mental health is a fairly large ask but if anyone can do it...