The Covid-19 pandemic has brought significant disruption to community, structure, exercise, and meaningful work. Therefore, the pandemic is having a devastating impact on people’s mental health. People we love in our churches and in our communities are struggling. While we were rightly concerned about surges in Covid-19 cases, we should also be concerned about the surges in struggles with anxiety and depression. How should we be responding to the increasing mental health challenges in the midst of this pandemic? Here are three thoughts:
1. Recognize our struggle and help people recognize their struggle.
This is not a time for Christian clichés or trite statements that are divorced from the painful season surrounding us. While we must, as ministry leaders, be optimistic and faith-filled, we must not minimize the loss that people are feeling or rush through the grieving people are experiencing. Yes, we must use this time as an opportunity to make the best use of everything and point people to Jesus. But we must simultaneously recognize the pain and loss around us. This includes being honest about our own sense of loss and struggle and being honest about our own struggles.
Though I have not done this perfectly, I have attempted to help our team and our church grieve in this season. I have led our team to share things we are grieving, losses we are experiencing. We will hold a special worship service next Monday night to help people lament. I have tried to be honest about my own struggles in this time – the losses I am feeling. People won’t cry out for help if they don’t think they need help, so we should model that all of us are in need of help.
2. Fight and help people fight.
When you understand the predictors for mental health that psychologists have pointed to for years, it is no surprise that people are struggling more in this season. For example, being in community with others is a proven way to fight for your mental health and peace. It is not the only way, but it is an important way. Isolation hurts us, and it is much easier to surrender to isolation in the midst of a global pandemic.
It would be a mistake to “wait until everything is back to normal” to resume providing opportunities for community and connection for people in our churches. While I do not believe a small group over Zoom is as effective or as desirable as a group in person, it is what we have now. And we must help people fight for their spiritual and mental health by making it as easy as possible to be in a group. Especially in this time! As a church we are moving hundreds of people to groups and helping our existing groups gather digitally. It is a lot of work, but it is so important.
At the same time, fight for your own mental health. Take an honest look at what has been lost. If your exercise routine has been disrupted, fight to find a new one. If structures have been dismantled, fight to put some new ones in place. As a church leader you are not immune to the challenges and struggles with mental health.
3. Call for help and help people call for help.
If you need help, ask for it. And help people in the church call for help by providing a simple path to do so – such as a number to call or text. Make it as easy as you can to help people call for help in the midst of this overwhelming season. If you have people on your team or in your church that are experienced with issues surrounding mental health and can help, rely on those people. If you do not, find people in your community who can help and quickly build pathways for your people to those experienced experts.