By Allison Allen (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with Life in Motion (www.lifeinmotionkentucky.com).)

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

As Christians, we have to believe that God is a God of compassion and comfort and does actually comfort us during our troubles.  Also, He can use our testimonies, our experiences and our life lessons to help others.  As God brings us through suffering, struggle and our own mental health symptoms, we can allow God to use us to minister to others in need.  But, what does that look like?

  1. Point people to Jesus when they ask you how you overcame certain problems or suffering situations
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
  3. James 1:2-6 tells us that trials bring us perseverance and maturity, if we allow God to change us; we can ask God for wisdom through the trials.
  4. Romans 5:3-5 tells us that suffering produces perseverance, character and hope, as God’s love is poured into us through His Holy Spirit.
  5. We are called to share these truths with others as we encourage and comfort them.
  6. As believers, we are called to share in Christ’s suffering, but also in His comfort. His suffering was temporary, but his comfort is eternal.

It can be quite a challenge differentiating between a diagnosed mental health disorder from problems that can be addressed with prayer, accountability, and meeting with church family and/or pastoral staff through pastoral counseling.  It’s important to know that only Qualified Mental Health Professionals (QMHP: Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners) can give a diagnosis.

QMHPs use a book called the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5) to diagnose disorders.  Every disorder has specific criteria of symptoms, frequency, duration and time of onset that must be met before an official diagnosis can be made.  Every disorder has these requirements:

  1. Causes significant personal distress–reported and displayed
  2. Impairs the ability to function in one or more important areas of life
  3. Represents serious departure from prevailing social and cultural norms

If you think a family member or friend has a mental health disorder, refer them to a QMHP. You can also do your own research. It’s important to be aware that you may not have the correct or accurate understanding of a psychological diagnosis. There are many misconceptions about certain diagnoses and several “fad” diagnoses.

I recommend this book and websites to help with understanding Diagnoses:

  1. Frances, Allen (2013), Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis (Revised Edition). New York: The Guilford Press
  2. Help with DSM-5 Criteria: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/educational-resources
  3. Kati Morton, LMFT YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/Katimorton: very helpful videos about many disorders and their criteria

It’s so important for your church to create a good list of Counselors in your church’s area for referrals.  Ask your church members to contribute names of good counselors and contact info.  Keep in mind, there are many telehealth options now–you can see a counselor that lives anywhere in your state!

More Helpful Resources:

– Listening Well by William Miller

– https://www.ccef.org/ (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation)

– Get Out of Your Head, by Jennie Allen

– www.JennieAllen.com/freebies:  “Anxious Thoughts Guide” and more

– https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com/: DBT resources with videos, worksheets and step by step instructions on mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance!

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van set Kol