Consider these stats on suicide from the National Institute of Mental Health:
— In 2015, suicide was the second-highest cause of death for 15-24 year-olds and for 25-34 year olds in the United States (CDC data).
— By 2014, age-adjusted suicide rates had grown to 13.0 people per 100,000 in the United States (CDC data).
— In 2015, a staggering 1.6% of all U.S. 18-25 year-olds attempted suicide. That’s one in every 63 (NSDUH data).
These stats are helpful inasmuch as they capture the destructiveness of the mental illness epidemic in America. Even so, mere numbers cannot capture the loss felt by even one family mourning the death of a loved one to depression. In my previous post, I argued that the church, as the fellowship of eternal life, ought to fight against depression, a bringer of death. But how can the church fight against depression?
This is one of the central questions of A Road Called Hope. In fact, the desire to see my friends in Christ face mental illness in solidarity with those who suffer it was the central motivation behind my creating this blog. Here are three ways in which the church can fight against depression, and ultimately against death:
1. Pray for the mentally ill: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard congregational prayers for a litany of its ill or bereaved members. Would we consider adding the ill in spirit to our corporate prayer lists, if they are willing? There are two great benefits of doing so. Firstly, Christ answers the prayer of faith and can save the lives of the suicidal. Secondly, praying openly for the mentally ill validates our life-and-death struggle and empowers us to ask for help when we need to. Which brings us to…
2. Provide concrete assistance: Straight after I left in the hospital, I stayed with dear friends from church for a little over a week. They hosted my mother and I, fed us, cared for us, let me play with their granddaughters and provided a place of healing for me. Staying with them and going to an intensive counseling program was far more healing for me than being in a psychiatric ward. Whose number can the mentally ill in your church call when all hell seems to break loose?
3. Dispel the stigma: We depressed Christians have long been ashamed in the church because of the myth that we are less godly. On the contrary! Christians who struggle with depression regularly have tested and tried the grace and providence of God over and over and over again, and have a valuable perspective to share with the church, especially bereaved or ill Christians. Remove the stigma of mental illness in the church, and empower depressed Christians to serve in the name of Jesus. This is perhaps the greatest antidote the church can offer to the deadliness of depression.
There are few things that I’ve found more meaningful than the fight against death. Do you have a story of fighting against the temptation to commit suicide, or helping someone else to? I’d love to hear about it! Please comment below (if you’re in the home page, you’ll need to click on the post title and scroll down).