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Faith Exchange

How faith grapples with mental health - and stigma Add to ...

Sheema Khan: Well, it's not just faith groups. When you have people coming together with a common reference point, then the issue will be addressed from within that context. For example, if you have a mental health group composed of Muslims, the reference point will be the Koran and authentic traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, as applied to contemporary challenges. If this group are primarily immigrants, then, other reference points will be brought in.

Lorna Dueck: There are two differences to me that stand out in faith community response to mental suffering. First, we are commanded not to duck it. We are beholden by our God to apply constant care to the suffering. Second, the facts of our faith remind us we are not dealing on human strength alone. Since God has promised to “never leave or forsake us”, we have a companion in suffering, it’s not just up to the support group I can put around myself, who, even the best of friends fail. So that’s when realizing our humanity and identity is intertwined with the reality of God gives us a difference in approaching mental health, we are still loved and cared for even if broken and lonely. One mental health passage in scripture I’ll claim is Psalm 23; “Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.”

Howard Voss-Altman: While I certainly understand and appreciate Lorna’s theological reference to God as the “suffering servant,” my experience suggests that non-Orthodox Jews are not particularly comfortable with that metaphor. We hope and pray that God offers strength and hope to those who suffer, not because God is suffering too, but rather because God seeks healing and a return to our best selves, our real selves.

Vettivelu Nallainayagam: As I stated earlier Hinduism is not an organized religion and I cannot therefore talk about a faith community. Although people are brought together during temple festivals there is no regular meeting of people to share their faith. Hence support for people will mental health can come from any group. The most important thing for a Hindu is to seek divine help directly and of course get comfort through the love and compassion of the family and friends.

Michael W. Higgins: I think that the complex issue of mental health and the rich mosaic of spirituality and its resources need to be part of a national and federal agenda. It will benefit all of us.

Lorna Dueck: I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the partnership between professional medical help, and the ordinary. Philip Yancey’s classic book Where is God When It Hurts documents how many people found their turn around moment to hope through some act of kindness, or some word of love spoken by not a professional, but just by someone speaking out of care and concern. It reminds us of the truth of I Corinthians 13 said Yancey, “that eloquent depiction love is what a suffering person needs: love, and not knowledge and wisdom. As is so often his pattern, God uses very ordinary people to bring about healing.” We need to keep looking for and encouraging that.

Vettivelu Nallainayagam: I will only say that it is important for teachers also to talk about these issues and guide students.

Chris Hannay: Thanks, all, for the participation in today’s panel.

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