Mental Wellbeing seminar reflection

2016-oct-mental-health-seminar-hopeIan Matchett shares his reflections after a weekend of training and equipping for mental wellbeing.

A few weekends ago (21st Oct) YWAM Seamill hosted a seminar focused on mental well-being that engaged our Christianity alongside medical science to bring a message of hope and strength. As I have reflected on the content I have come to a few conclusions.

No one is immune

img_20161023_135526454There are so many stigmas associated with mental health, from words spoken over people, like depression and anxiety, to the feelings of inadequacy that seeking help can provoke. They build barriers to us getting simple, real help needed. So much so that for many they need to be in a dire situation before reaching out for help.

How much trouble do we need to be in before we realise that we need more than the supportive phone call from a trusted friend? How many of us have felt that overwhelming, isolating fear that we are alone in our struggle and no one else can possibly understand what we are going though?

As we talk about Mental Health more and more we will see the end of the days where we see depression and anxiety as a massive negative thing that only effects the broken ones in society. We will see the reality that more and more people are struggling with real issues that are common to us all.

It is time to lose the stigma and learn to support one another.

Start early

The focus of this weekend was on training ourselves to have positive mental habits and ways of thinking that acknowledge the stresses and strains of life before they become all consuming. The message was clear, the earlier we start, the sooner we will see mental strength.

Topics like “Understanding Stress”, “Government of Self” and the “STOPP” method all brought positive tools to us. There were also intentional relaxation methods, soaked in Scripture and connection with the presence of the Lord that were fantastic for bringing perspective. For those of us in stressful life situations and/or jobs, these exercises help keep healthy people healthy and the sooner you use them the better. The more we leave problems alone or try to cope without stopping the worse the issues we must deal with later.

God has a lot to say

As our Creator and Designer, it would make sense that He would have some things to say about the state of our minds. We are called to “love the Lord your God with all you heart soul MIND and strength”, and we were reminded that He doesn’t want just a healthy person, but all of every person. You do not need to be in a healthy place mentally to worship God (see Psalm 40). If all you have are feelings of despair or anger, bring them to God. You are in good company (see David), and God wants to bring you to a place of emotional rest as well as physical rest (see the Ten Commandments). Keeping your focus on God brings perfect peace to your heart (Isa 26v3). He has made you, he cares for you, he loves you (John 3v16).

bible-handsFor some the topics of meditation and relaxation have been seen as coming from an unhealthy source. However, we must realise that when the source is God we can un-tap a large part of how He designed us to live. The Jews have a word that is inadequately translated as “peace”, Shalom. Strong’s describes this word as: completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquillity, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.

When I read this description, I see a fullness in life and mental wellbeing that is so much more than anything the world could offer. I see how Jesus lived. Through every aspect of our weekend together I saw how God was building Shalom in our lives.

For these three conclusions alone our weekend together was worthwhile. My encouragement to us all is to talk about our emotions, feelings, struggles and successes.

And of course, celebrate God’s goodness together.

There is hope!