Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church, claims the Church could have a special role in caring for those struggling from mental disorder and their families.
"Where do people go who are living with mental health challenges? Where do they go to find compassionate care and understanding? Where can they find hope for their dark days?" Warren inquired.
"I really believe that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to be that safe, welcoming, and compassionate place for all who suffer."
According to the figures she shared, one in five Americans and one in five children will be mentally disabled in the year ahead. The report also showed that suicide had become the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34.
"There's a desperate need for the Church to engage with individuals with mental health challenges and their families," she said. "The Church is positioned to take strong leadership and to provide the help that others can't."
The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in February that in 2019 about four out of every ten adults in the United States reported signs of anxiety or depression.
Additionally, the study showed that young people had seen a variety of pandemic-related effects, such as school closures and wage loss, which may lead to depressive symptoms.
The foundation found that during the pandemic, 56 % of 18 to 24-year-olds showed symptoms of anxiety or depression, and that they were more likely than most people to use drugs and have suicidal thoughts.
Warren quoted figures showing that 25% of individuals needing assistance in a mental health situation would go to a priest, rabbi, or minister before going to a mental health provider or psychiatrist. She emphasized that it's the Church's responsibility to "fill in the gaps" that government services and secular agencies left behind.
"I seriously beg you, don't walk by the Church of God on your way to engaging the world on critical issues like mental illness. It's going to be messy," she pleaded. "[but] the Church is the only vehicle that God has chosen to spread his message of compassion and mercy, and at the center of it all is Christ and His body, the Church."
"You can't say you love Jesus and hate His Church or have no use for it or ignore it," she continued. "It is His body, and in His church, in His body, there is a place for everyone."
Furthermore, she said that having an attitude of mercy, love, and tenderness does not necessitate a big church membership or a lot of money. Instead, it only waits for a decision to help with the plight of fellow human beings who are struggling, although it's just by small acts of kindness.
How Churches Are Responding
A 2014 survey found that nearly half of pastors "rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group settings about acute mental illness."
The LifeWay study found that 68% of pastors surveyed said their churches maintain a list of local mental health resources for church members, but only about 28% said their families are aware of those resources.
About one in four individuals said they had either "stopped attending church, had not found a church to attend or had changed churches based on the church's response to mental health issues"
"The Bible is clear that having an illness doesn't mean 'that you're not valuable or that there's something spiritually wrong,'" said Warren to comfort those who are presently struggling.
Then turning her message back to the Church, she reiterated that mental illness "dehumanizes" people, but the Church is the legitimate place in the society to uplift the broken in spirits.
"Hope is the most valuable commodity that we have in the Church to offer people in profound pain," she says.
What's Motivating Her
The Saddleback pastor's son, Matthew, took his own life in 2013 after a life-long battle with mental illness.
"I will miss my son every day for the rest of my life," said Warren at a message she delivered on Thursday at the 2021 Evangelical Press Association Christian Media Convention noted the Christian Post (CP).
Following Matthew's passing, Warren founded Saddleback's Hope for Mental Health Initiative to assist patients and family members dealing with mental disorder or suicidal tendencies.