Freed from Shame
From a guest blog by Dawn Holmes
A new book, ‘Freed From Shame’ by Dawn Holmes addresses the stigma of mental illness in the church.
The author collected stories from a number of people about their struggles with various mental health disorders and how their faith helped them, or sometimes made the guilt and shame harder to deal with. Their stories are a hard-hitting and honest glimpse behind the closed doors of life.
Statistics that state one in four people will have a mental health issue every year, and that includes in our congregations. ‘Freed From Shame’ looks at what mental health and ill-health is, contains real-life stories from Christians struggling with various mental health issues and suggestions for churches and individuals supporting people.
Here’s Peter‘s story, as told in the book:
“For years I was told I had depression and was treated as such, but nothing ever improved. It took a long while to get a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD affects people differently, e.g. hand-washing, cleaning, putting things in order. For me it‘s routines. I have certain ways of doing things and if I‘m disrupted or something goes wrong, I need to start again. Routines help me feel safe and along with my medication I can manage my day-to-day life reasonably well.
"On bad days, however, when things go wrong I go into a downward spiral and I can‘t cope. I find it hard to sleep, withdraw from everyone, become insular and start to plan ending my life - it‘s so hard to escape those thoughts once I‘m there.
"Church has helped me as I have found people who understand. Once you get to know someone you can learn their trigger points, and what happens on their bad days so you have a chance to rescue them. Recently I withdrew and wasn‘t answering calls; a friend remembered this was what happened when I was feeling suicidal, so came to my door and when there was no answer he called the police. I had tried to take my life but thankfully it hadn‘t worked.
"You never think you would end up like this - mental illness can happen to anyone. It‘s not what I expected in life but I have to learn to live with it. The one thing that helps me and that‘s with Jesus in my life I‘m never alone. The most important advice I‘d give to people wanting to support someone with a mental health issue is listen properly - look behind the mask that a person puts on to protect themselves, and listen to what they have to say. Once you get to know them you have a chance to help them.”
As we understand more about mental health issues and seek to truly love, support and encourage people, don't we long to see the church becoming the safest place for those with mental illnesses to find the love and compassion of Christ, to find hope? A place where people are freed from shame.
“God cares about the well-being of His people: mind, body and soul. He cares about those within the church walls and those yet to discover Him. As an ever-increasing issue, it is vital to discern the importance of the role that the church has to play at this time in history to minister God‘s love, grace, kindness and care.” Lou Fellingham, worship leader, singer and songwriter.
Freed From Shame is available in paperback from here or the Kindle version can be bought from Amazon here.
Workshops are also available. Dates for a 6 hour workshop are on the website and they are designed to; Equip churches and individuals with both general and specific information on mental health issues, Address what stigma and shame are, Explore what churches and individuals can do practically to support people, Look at positive steps towards change.
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