We've all heard the phrase "it's a small world" and may have even said it ourselves at some point when we realized we knew someone or knew of someone through another person. In fact, for years the idea has been that there are six degrees of separation between people – so much so that years ago it was made into a game – the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. More recently, Facebook has said there are only 3.5 degrees of separation between users.
Why am I talking about degrees of separation? It's estimated that one in five people will experience a mental health issue this year. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure the number five falls somewhere between the 3.5 and six degrees of separation we are all speculated to have -- which says to me the likelihood you will know or already know of someone who experiences a mental health issue this year, is pretty high. It could even be you.
Yet the stigma of suffering any type of mental health issue remains. Many suffer in silence, alone, trying to project a persona to others to cover up the struggle they really feel internally.
The stigma of mental illness runs high in the church as well, while many in our spiritual communities try to hide the brokenness they are experiencing. Sometimes, the individuals trying to hide what they are going through are our ministry leaders and their families. The fishbowl we tend to place them in makes it even more difficult for them to find any corner of safety in which to deal with the pain they may be walking through.
I heard the song Broken Together by Casting Crowns a year or so ago and though the lyrics are referencing marriage struggles, I believe the message runs true for all relationships. We are all broken, have shattered dreams, things just haven't turned out the way we expected or wanted them to. So we all need to learn to live broken together -- easier said than done right?
With regard to mental health, part of living broken together means recognizing value in those who struggle with these issues instead of writing them off or pushing them aside. Ian F. Jones, professor of psychology and counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, recently wrote the following in a Christian Counseling Today article:
We are created by God for relationship with Him and our neighbors. We bear His image (Genesis 1:26). As image bearers, all people – including individuals who struggle with suicide and mental health issues – have value in the eyes of God.
There are ways we can learn how to better live broken, together. I hope you'll join me at the Micah 6:8 Conference with the intent to do just that – learn how God might want to use you or your church in living broken together. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18), shouldn't we be as well?