In the past few years, it has become more and more evident that we are experiencing a mental health crisis.
The pandemic only brought to light what has been plaguing entire generations throughout the world. Based on a 2019 survey by Barna, 40% of adults ages 18-35 are struggling with anxiety, loneliness, and isolation. These numbers are not just true of the United States, but are telling of 25 different countries.
Numerous factors are contributing to the health crisis among younger generations. But what is most clear is that we have a concerning problem that a large amount of the next generation is dealing with. Whether we are able to personally relate to the overwhelming struggle of anxiety, loneliness, and depression doesn’t change the fact that we must take part in responding.
It’s easy to see numbers this large and think an equally large solution must be put into place. Something this large would require governmental agencies, policy changes, and for the entire health care system to act.
Now that may be true, but that does not mean our greatest response is simply aching hearts. Let’s just think about the aspects of loneliness and isolation, people are longing for community. Is this not what the church is meant to be—a community of people who follow Christ to lift up one another’s burdens and to care for one another? Based on the numbers, we aren’t doing this well. We simply can not disregard the pain and cry for help that is being shared by an entire generation.
If 40% of young adults are dealing with loneliness, anxiety, and isolation, that means one in three young people you see fit into this category. People in your family, neighborhood, and even churches are represented in this survey. You may think you don’t know someone who deals with this, but it’s actually very likely that you do and maybe are just unaware of it.
The church community has work to do.
Validate the Crisis
Instead of shaming a generation for dealing with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, we should be acknowledging the crisis in front of us. Older generations often want to explain away the issues of a younger generation. Statements like, maybe if they weren’t so addicted to social media they wouldn’t be so lonely or if they would go outside more and interact with people then they wouldn’t be so isolated are not helpful.
These are judgmental statements that don’t actually convey to the person struggling with mental health that you care.
I’ve seen the documentaries about the negative role technology plays in the lives of the next generation and how that can be a contributing factor to the current mental health crisis, but flippantly bringing that up every time the topic of mental health is being brought to bear does not display any sense of compassion.
An entire generation is suffering in a way older generations do not understand. Does that mean their suffering isn’t valid or real? Of course not. Furthermore, depression is not just a feeling someone can stop feeling if they think positively enough. Depression and anxiety are serious illnesses that need to be viewed as such.
One way you can validate the crisis at hand is to take someone seriously when they open up about what they are struggling with. Trying to cheer them up, make them laugh, or say look on the bright side is not validating.
RELATED: Is Anxiety a Sin?
Recognize That This Issue Is a Church Issue
There are countless members who attend church every Sunday who are actively struggling with anxiety and depression. They are sitting in the pews next to you. They are parked next to you. This issue is not only plaguing the world out there. It’s plaguing Christians. We too are suffering.
Jesus came for the brokenhearted. He wants to see redemption happen in the lives of those who are suffering. The best place to see substantial change happen in the lives of the next generation dealing with mental health is in the Church.
Now I’m not talking about biblical counseling, where you tell someone to memorize Philippians 4:6-7 until their anxiety disappears. But as people who are passionate about seeing restoration in the world around us, that should apply to the things happening before our very eyes.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18)
As the body of Christ, we ought to be near to the brokenhearted. We need to be aware of the broken people around us and what they’re actually dealing with. This requires knowing people, building community, and being present and available to listen.
Being near someone actually means getting close to them.
It’s wonderful to hear mental health addressed from the pulpit, but that’s not likely going to be what helps someone get through a dark time. It’s going to be a person who knows what’s going on and will rush to their house or pick up the phone and talk to them.
The church has to be close to people. We have to make time and space for others, if we want to see the overwhelming numbers of people who deal with isolation, depression, and anxiety begin to decline. Of course, that’s not all that a person with mental health struggles needs, but it goes a long way in showing the care of Jesus.
We must do more than verbally tell others they can find hope in Jesus. We have to allow our relationships with them to be the light of Christ piercing through their lives. Our faith is not merely about our own personal benefit. Living out our own faith in relationship with others is actually a way to spur on and encourage the faith of others. It’s the way God created communities to exist for the benefit of one another.
Let us be more intentional about genuinely caring for and seeing holistic redemption take place in the lives of others.
Genuinely Desire Restoration for the Whole of Creation
American Christianity has too often boiled salvation down to receiving life after death. But it’s about so much more than getting your golden pass into heaven. The gift of salvation is about hope for after death, but also hope in life.
Jesus is currently redeeming and making all things new. It doesn’t mean all of our pain and suffering will disappear on this side of eternity, but we can still have hope that he is here, walking with us and even carrying us.
This must be our vision for those enduring mental illness. We must walk with those who are suffering. God uses people to be part of his restoration plan for others. We should always be open and willing to be used by God in the lives of others. You never know how he will choose to use you to bring wholeness and restoration in someone else’s life.
Let us help carry the burdens of the next generation and not merely talk to them about the hope in Jesus. Let us show them the hope of Jesus.