Faith: a rudder, an anchor, the foundation & a light in Mental Health
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is not a tablet you swallow that makes all things better and replaces medication, work or effort. It is not an antidote, a quick fix or a crutch. It is not about hiding ones head in the sand when challenges hit chanting or praying all things will work out somehow. It is more than prescribed activities and tasks or checklists to fill out. It is not superficial practice of set rituals to create a specific outcome
Faith is a deeply balanced belief in that lives within the individual and is held in deep personal regard. It is a personal relationship with a power higher than us namely God and has the power to influence how we live and interact in all aspects of life and it produces practices but is not rigid or manipulative as religion often is. It is a connection to something bigger than us that helps us look within; understand who we are and how we are connected to life and the world.
In this way, faith gives us a rudder that provides direction, an anchor to keep on track, a foundation to stand on and a light to illuminate the path. It also helps believers face situations with deep honesty that will ensure matters are dealt with and lasting solutions are found. It gives the ability to understand and interpret the meaning of life and the impact the world around us.
The most challenging part about the interlink between faith and mental health, is the thought process that if one truly has faith they cannot have other challenges worst of all, mental health one. Common questions and statements include; How can you be depressed and you are a believer? Where is your faith? Why can’t you just get over it? In reality, mental illness is an illness like any other. If we make room for people suffering from diabetes, hypertension, malaria and cancer, why can't we do the same for those suffering from mental illness?
There is a distinct role faith plays in dealing with mental health. First it creates a crisis of faith. Many patients find themselves questioning the very existence of God and His ability to heal them and the reason for their suffering. It opens up the deepest wells of doubt and fear. Second, it vocalises the questions on the inside that must be answered to ensure complete healing. Third, it exposes the inabilities of a shallow and surface faith and the ability to hide behind common expressions that so many have embraced and demands a deep personal dealing.
A deep and balanced faith helps healing and dealing with mental illness because when handled with honesty and guided introspection, it helps the individual find their way.
It produces inner balance: Regular deep reflection through guided individual and communal study and prayer enables the believer to find meaning in life, understanding of God, a view of how others dealt with challenges, a connection to the world, clear perspectives of the impact their life can produce. As faith deepens and is expressed, the teachings received become ingrained and when challenging situations arise, there is a clear light to walk back to or stabilising place of faith that keeps one in position and therefore helps one find healing. This provides a solid foundation to stand on and a rudder when the winds of life are at full force.
It gives a sense of individuality: the believer uncovers and internalises what they believe, who they are and how they are to engage with others which facilitates deep dealings and personal growth. This enables one to accept themselves and others as fellow human enabling deeper relationship and opens up doors for influence and relationship.
It provides a way of life: the believer finds their place and role in the world and become keen to live out their purpose which renews their individual sense of well-being and inspires a deeper appreciation of their physical environment including people. This produces habits and patterns of living from scripture that help develop compassion, gratitude, forgiveness and other life lessons that are balancers in hard times.
It provides a community: a growing faith draws believers to communities with like beliefs and deepens interaction with the truths thus increasing the sense of belonging because of similar experiences and finding people who provide safe social engagement and growth. Among that community will be people who have walked or are walking a similar path and therefore provide the right kind of support for the journey
It provides a place of expression: while finding their place in life, the believer finds expression through meaningful work, art, works of faith, outreach, social impact and sharing.