PROBLEM: One of the most disturbing consequences of the pandemic is the skyrocketing number of cases of mental illness. Especially among the young. Depression. Anxiety. Suicides. I wrote about this in my book The Post Covid Church, and the numbers are only getting worse. In fact, last year a record number of Americans killed themselves.
A Next Step Solutions 2023 study showed that 21% of adults are experiencing at least one mental illness. That’s roughly 50 million people. 55% of adults with a mental illness have not received any treatment.
What is the most discouraging: A KKF (formerly known as Kaiser Family Foundation) study showed that one out of three Americans said they has symptoms of anxiety or depression earlier this year——about the same percentage as three years ago, in the midst of the shutdown.
This follows the disturbingly sharp increase of mental health disorders during the pandemic:
“Symptoms of anxiety and depression increased during the pandemic, deaths due to drug overdose increased sharply across the total population coinciding with the pandemic – and more than doubled among adolescents. Alcohol-induced death rates also increased substantially during the pandemic, with rates increasing the fastest among people of color and people living in rural areas.” (Links to these studies are below.)
Several Post Covid Church Podcasts produced during the pandemic, including the very first one, highlighted the urgent need for the church to engage. (Links to those episodes are below.). How often has the issue of mental health been brought up in sermons and studies in your church during these last few years? Unfortunately, as in the rest of our culture, mental health is more easily swept under the rug than discussed.
One way to make the issue is more front and center is for Believers who’ve struggled to step up. I have frequently mentioned my struggles with depression in small groups and in the pulpit. It takes away the stigma when we’re open about the issue and the help we received.
To their credit, some churches have dedicated staff to help members struggling. They are normally large ones. But, are there professionals with expertise sitting in the pews? If church leaders know what talent the laity possesses, these skills can be tapped to make a difference in the church and the community. Why not discover those gifts right in front of you?
A great resource for your church is Kay Warren’s website “Mental Health and the Church” ( https://kaywarren.com/mentalhealthandthechurch/ ). She and her husband Rick Warren, Saddleback’s founding pastor, lost a son to suicide after a long battle with mental illness.
At the heart of this issue is often the loss of purpose. A recent podcast episode highlighted a disturbing trend, even among Christians, of those losing the sense of purpose ( https://www.thepostcovidchurch.com/2023/07/purpose/ ) and a church supported ministry that is helping to restore it.
The mental health issue is one of many that The Post Covid Church can’t be afraid to lean into. The need is great, inside and outside the walls. Let’s take the first step: talk about it!
Links to referenced material:
Previous Mental Health Podcast Episodes:
“Time to Focus on Mental Health”: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/qPjuKpWvhCb
“Isolation, Fear, Anxiety: Fulfilling and Emotional Need” https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/qPjuKpWvhCb
“The Biblical Basis for Dealing With Grief and Fear” https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/vogjB1awhCb
Next Step Study
KKF Depression Study