1 in 4 people experience a mental health condition in their life time.
1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder. That’s roughly 3 children in each classroom.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for boys aged between 5 – 19 years, and the second most common for girls of that age.
Half of all mental health problems manifest before the age of 14, and 75% manifest before aged 24.
The proportion of young people with mental health disorders is rising.
The Church cannot ignore it.
So what can we do?
It’s Mental Health Awareness week, so week we are running our mental health project “#notasecret” in coordination with The Lily Jo project and Hazel Grove Baptist Church in Hazel Grove High. We are blessed to be in for assemblies every day, reaching every year group, and also staying around for conversations and questions during the break time, just generally making ourselves available. We are on our second day, and already are seeing some results. The hits on Lily Jo’s website (an excellent self-help resource for young people – check it out here www.thelilyjoproject.com) are already rising, showing us that children are taking the information they have received in assembly and are actually applying it at home and reaching out for resources. We have also had a few students who have been brave enough to come forward and speak to us personally about their issues. We are blessed this week by the work of Tim Burnham and Mark Paddon from Hazel Grove Baptist Church who have a strong and involved presence in the school, and we know that they are part of a significant safety net designed to catch troubled students after Lily Jo and myself have moved on.
But what can you do in your church, in your youth groups, to address mental health?
Mental Health Awareness week is a national initiative. This means that this week our young people will be receiving messages in schools across the UK that are similar to the message Christians in Schools Trust and the Lily Jo project are bringing to Hazel Grove High School: that mental health is something we all have, and needing help isn’t shameful. If your child is currently in education, they are likely to receive an assembly on this topic in the next few days, but it goes beyond schools. This week, from every avenue, young people and children will be hearing messages about mental health. Their facebook and snapchat will be full of real-life stories and messages. The radio podcasts they listen to will feature celebrities talking about it. It will show up on newsround. So let’s not let the Church be the one place which is silent.
Let’s not miss the opportunity to have a conversation that might make a huge difference. Let’s use those facebook posts and snapchat stories and radio broadcasts as a place to start a conversation. Being vulnerable about mental health is very hard, but with statistics like this, we have all been affected by mental health in some way. Honesty provokes honesty. Is there a story inside you that might help a friend, or a family member, or even your church? In a week where discussions about mental health are everywhere, let’s be Christians who are part of the discussion. Talking about God and mental health isn’t easy, but it’s even harder to try and maintain a healthy relationship with God whilst living with a mental health condition. As Christians, let’s make sure that our young people know there is a place for them in the Kingdom of God, no matter what is going on in their lives. Let’s make sure that everyone knows that being anxious or depressed or having low self-esteem is not a problem for God – there is no problem in their lives too shameful or too big for him. Let’s preach the gospel of grace into a culture of shame.
It’s mental health Awareness week. My question to you this week is: Are our young people surviving or thriving? Do you know someone who is barely surviving, and how can you help them to thrive?
I hope you have been challenged and convicted by what I have posted today. At Christians in Schools we believe that the issue of mental health among young people is on the heart of God, and education and awareness are part of our mandate to spread the truth of his good news. Please pray for us this week as we deliver our message of openness and honesty to the young people, and try and release them from stigma.
And I pray that your mental health awareness week is a time of positive conversations with the people around you. May you have the bravery of Christ to stand with those who are suffering, and show them the love Christ in the darkness.
May you know the truth of our survival by the blood Christ, and may you thrive in the reality of His grace.