A Universal Problem: How Mental Health Affects All Communities & Religions
May is mental health awareness month, but I keep wondering whether communities know this. I wonder whether they know that mental health is a challenge, and it is affecting everyone regardless of their religion, age, color, or belief, which in turn affects peace.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is one of the leading causes of disability. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely, as much as two decades early, due to preventable physical conditions.
How Faith Can Help Ease Mental Health
As someone who is Christian, my faith has provided some sense of hope in such situations. I am expected to think about Christ, and what he means to me, and have confidence that he can help to lessen worry, ease anxiety, and bring some inner peace. Also, the same faith calls me to be my brother’s keeper. The question is how do I do that?
Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former U.S. president, once mentioned that “we cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.” But the WHO facts are quite devastating. Unless we act, participate, and contribute to preventing and mitigating these mental health challenges, we shall have no hope and future. It is therefore important to transform our actions and attitudes around mental health.
Ways to Show Support for Community Members Struggling with Mental Health
To do this, it is important to understand how mental health challenges manifest and how to show support. The following are some of the ways that one can show support:
· Listen without judging.
· Participate in physical activities such as yoga, running, Zumba, and dancing.
· Identify triggers.
· Help to find professional support and care, e.g., therapy.
· Give hope for recovery through encouragement and prayer.
· Speak up and hold leaders accountable for comprehensive policies and funding for mental health challenges.
· And don’t forget to take care of your own mental health.
Learning about the religious traditions of others through interfaith activities and dialogue is an important way to build empathy and listening skills. The more we listen to each other, and the greater awareness of mental health challenges, the stronger our communities will be.
I now challenge you to speak up, and show up, for there is no health without mental health!
This blog was inspired by Harriet’s capstone project on the role of faith communities in mitigating the effects of mental health issues among youth with a focus on Mombasa, Kenya.Hartford International University educates students from different backgrounds and faiths in interreligious studies. Students may go on to specialize in chaplaincy, ministry, peace studies or a wide array of other careers including social services, where dealing with people and mental health issues is central to their work.