Promoting Good Mental Health in the Family
Mental health is very prevalent and has become a primary health concern affecting a large portion of the population, including those in a faith community. To address this issue plaguing our society, we must seek ways to keep our mental health in a vibrant condition, and we must promote these continually in our own homes.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices (MentalHealth.Gov, 2020). Having good mental health is just as important as having a healthy body. However, the Bible goes even deeper. 3 John 1:2 says, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” It is important to note that physical, mental, and spiritual health should be kept well as they are interrelated in many ways.
A simple way of measuring emotional and mental well-being is to imagine a straight line with a scale from negative on one end to positive on the other and labeled depression on the negative and joy on the positive. The scale is based on what people think and feel about their lives. It could be the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions, and resilience, the realization of their potentials and fulfillment, blessings in kind, or their overall satisfaction of life, or even their sense of fulfillment in ministries. Combined, these may be considered as global judgments on life satisfaction.
To most of the population, the spot we identify ourselves with on the given scale is somewhere in the middle indicating a balanced mindset. We might be propelled toward a more negative end on bad days or leaning toward joy on good days. However, those who have learned to trust God are generally skewed toward joy with above-average points of global judgment. Those with troubled minds often find themselves leaning to the negative side, causing their mind to be off-balanced, depressed, and feeling despair. They find their life circumstances very disturbing. We need to find meaning and substance in life for us to thrive. When our minds keep feeding on the unfavorable circumstances, our bodies and spirits are also negatively affected.
Mental health can affect a person at any age. It is reported that 10% of the population of children and youth combined has a diagnosable mental health condition (Mental Health Foundation, 2020). However, it is widely known that the number is much greater now due to many factors coming into view in recent years, including the Pandemic. Nevertheless, the main factors are a family history of mental illness, life experiences of being abused, being rejected, or witnessing a traumatic event leading to feeling more negative in life. The problem of substance abuse is one of the current key factors that cause mental issues.
The deteriorating conditions of mental health can generally be observed through changes in thinking, feeling, and behavior. People with emotional or mental issues might be very negative about life. They cry easily, they worry a lot, they are fearful, and frequently develop anxiety. They may have sleepless nights or lose appetite. They may start to isolate themselves and become less motivated by things they were previously passionate about. They may also fall back to immature behaviors (National Alliances on Mental Illness, n.d.).
Mental Health Is Linked with Spiritual Health
Mental health is, no doubt, related to spiritual health because a troubling thought is often brought in by an unforgiving spirit, hatred, grudges, resentment, bitterness, doubtful attitude, and a wrongful spirit. According to Mrs. White, mental health is “mental clearness, calm nerves, quiet spirit like Jesus” (Burt, 2008). Mental problem is addressed by her like a disease, and it develops as the mind succumbs to the devil's continued promptings of bad thought habits. Satan is putting his best effort into capturing our minds and enslaving us with negativity. The Bible reminds us in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." As the father of lies, Satan would do anything to destroy the peace of God's children and marginalize our joy in Christ. All efforts to restore and shield our mental health would be powerless for only God’s spirit can overturn the evil thoughts and “purify springs of life…changed from sin to holiness,” (White as quoted by Burt, 2008, p. 11).
Promoting Good Mental Health at Home
As spouses or parents, we can promote good mental health at home by the things we say, do, or create for the family. Here are some suggestions which will greatly help in promoting good mental health at home:
- Build a strong, loving, and caring relationship at home.
- Be an example in staying positive and in developing a resilient spirit amid trials, deprivation, and the Pandemic.
- Help each one develop good self-esteem. When the sense of self is right, the emotional well-being is greatly enhanced, and the person is most likely to stay immune to negativity.
- Show genuine interest in each other. In this way, family members feel supported and valued.
- Teach children to deal with disappointments healthily. Life does not always sail on a smooth and calm sea; there are storms and waves to deal with. Children must learn to take them as parts of life and move on with optimism.
- Be attentive and respectful and listen to each other’s feelings. Practice effective communication and listen without judging and without preconceived ideas.
- Create a safe and positive home environment. This can be done by safeguarding the children against media use. Parents themselves must limit their screen time and spend quality time with their families. Include outdoor activities. Be very careful in discussing serious family issues in front of the children.
- Be a role model in taking good care of your mental health. Practice self-control in all aspects of life and this starts from conditioning or controlling the way we think. Avoid forming and sharing polarized political ideas, racial discrimination, and prejudices. Always exhibit a balanced judgment to your family members.
- Discipline children and youth in a balanced manner. Mrs. White said, “We Exercise Neither Severity nor Excessive Indulgence. …. Excessive indulgence and undue severity are alike to be avoided. While vigilance and firmness are indispensable, so also are sympathy and tenderness. Parents, remember that you deal with children who are struggling with temptation and that to them these evil promptings are as hard to resist as are those that assail persons of mature years. Children who desire to do right may fail again and again, and as often need encouragement to energy and perseverance. Watch the working of these young minds with prayerful solicitude. Strengthen every good impulse; encourage every noble action” (CG 263.3). And very importantly, in difficult situations, help children and youth solve problems.
- Make time with God a priority for the family. Never fail to promote the truth in the Bible, God’s promises in His written word, and the Spirit of Prophecy. Mrs. White has much to say about safeguarding a balanced mind.
Mark 4:35-41 reminds us of a very important aspect of the Christian life. When the disciples were terrified by a terrible storm, the horrendous waves, and the relentless beating of the winds, Jesus was sleeping peacefully. This incident helps us to understand from a mental health perspective that there is no point to be stressed over uncontrollable circumstances and cause our mental health to deteriorate. We need to stay calm and trust God. In this unprecedented time, we need to have the full realization of God's presence and His mighty power over us. We need to see through the eyes of faith and have full assurance of His leading and protection. In every given situation, we may act calmly, sensibly, and consistently with our faith anchored in Him. If we care for our mental health, we must prioritize our relationship with God. When life turns challenging, God does not change our circumstances; instead, He empowers us to think positively and preserve our minds regardless of the circumstances!
Dr. Orathai Chureson, Adventist Children's Ministry and Association of Ministerial Spouses Director
- White, E. G. (n.d.). Child Guidance. Retrieved on June 12, 2021, from https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/8.1198
- Burt, Merlin, "Ellen G. White and Mental Health" (2008). Faculty Publications. 1740. https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/pubs/1740
- Jennings, R. T. (2012). Could It Be This Simple? The Biblical Model in Healing the Mind. Chattanooga, TN: Lennox Publishing.
- Mental Health Foundation (2020). Mental Health Statistics: Children and young people. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people
- MentalHealth.Gov. (2020). What is Mental Health? Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
- National Alliances on Mental Illness (n.d.). Warning Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved on June 12, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms
Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are meant to permeate your whole life. Growing out of scriptures that paint a compelling portrait of God, you are invited to explore, experience and know the One who desires to make us whole.