Friday, 12 February 2016

Mad about Mental Health

Kia ora. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Laura Harper and I work in Community Mental Health. I support elderly people who experience mental illness, and I LOVE my job. I also love Jesus and proudly worship Him.

In light of the recent news media about mental illness, suicide, and self-harm, I thought I could write a Christian response to such sadness as this. I aim to be direct in my opinions, but humble too. I am incredibly passionate about having a Christian apologetic around mental health and spend lots of time in prayer, meditation, study, and discussion in this area.

Have a read of what I have to say. If you like it and would like to chat further, or have me speak with your community, please notify me. I would be delighted at such an opportunity.
Contact me on

I spend most of my week with people on the margins of society. Not only are they old, frail, isolated, and sore, they experience the mental turmoil of Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have so much respect and compassion for the mental unwell. Truly they are some of the most gentle, forgiving, and spiritual people I’ve ever met. Plus mental health is so fluid, most of the time they are functioning as a ‘normal’ person.

I am less and less convinced that mental ill-health is not the experience of said ‘normal’ person. We all have our bad days, and sometimes we just want to pull the covers over all our problems and watch Netflix until we fall asleep.

As part of my training, I worked for two months in a youth residential home. There were eight residents, aged 13-18, who lived there. Most of them self-harmed and I saw some truly destructive behaviours whilst placed there.

Yet I also felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit, the compassion of Jesus, and the love of God in that home.

I myself used to experience depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed two years ago, and have received regular therapy since. It’s been a time of tears, truth, challenge, humility, and a whole lot of courage. I have had people deny my claim of sickness, tell me to “rub some Bible on it”, “grow a pair”, or “just stop being sad.” I’m grieved to say that some of these ludicrously unhelpful responses have come from people I admire and respect.

                There is no denying that God has ONLY mercy for the mentally unwell.
                He has only grace, only compassion, only understanding, only redemption.
Being on this side of sickness, I see where God has lavished his truth and freedom on me over the past two years. I am eternally grateful and humbled that Jesus walked me through my pain.

Some are not so lucky. We lose beautiful men and women to suicide or hospitalisation far too frequently. And as Christians, we follow Jesus’ call to bring freedom, truth, and healing to the sick.

In Jesus’ first public address he states,
                “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
                because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
                He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
                and recovery of sight for the blind,
                to set the oppressed free,
                to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

                (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus stands on the side of the poor and needy. Jesus stands alongside the poor and needy. Jesus calls us to do the same.

I never understood that the Bible addresses grief and loss, and replaces them with hope. When in fact, Scripture is a love story; Jesus calls his people back to him time and time again. His arms are wide with love, and there is always room for you in God’s house.

One Scripture I frequent on the bad days is John 16:20-23.

                “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve,   but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

God wills us to express our grief. He validates our pain and loss. He promises us redemption and freedom.
Once again, God has ONLY mercy for the mentally unwell.

If you are a leader in your community, I urge you to address the mental health of those you lead. Ask the hard questions, pray for freedom, choose hope.
If you are a member in your community, I urge you to be truthful about your mental health. Confess when you need help, choose humility, and never stop sharing.

Together we can remove the stigma of mental health and finally admit that we all need a little love and healing.
Will you join me?

In the words of Christ,
                “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Aroha mai, aroha atu.
May you know the peace and love of Christ.

Nga mihi,
La. x

Helpful resources:
Lifeline - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
Healthline - 0800 611 116
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

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