Making mental health more visible


This is Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May), with the NSPCC revealing that schools in England made almost 125,000 referrals for specialist help since 2014, with more than half of these coming from primary schools.

Across the age spectrum, the stats on mental health struggles look bleak. Last week, British universities said they risk “failing a generation” unless students get better mental health care.

The topic of child and adolescent mental health is very close to Doorsteps’ heart. It’s why we’re running a conference looking at this very topic next week. We’re really excited to be joined by speakers from Mind and Soul, Fegans, and CAMHS.

Our hope is that the conference will equip those in attendance to feel more confident and better equipped to support children and young people as they grow up and as they grapple with their mental health and its related challenges. (There is still space to book a place: click here to do so.)

Mental health is nothing to be scared of. You wouldn’t ignore someone who has broken their leg, so why would you ignore someone who’s struggling with depression? Mental illness isn’t as invisible as we might like to think it is. Ignoring it or trivialising it is the wrong thing to do, both for the person experiencing problems but also for the message that sends to our children and young people.

We need to teach our children to be literate about their own mental health: to vocalise their struggles and worries, and to teach them good skills for tackling emotional problems and hiccoughs with emotional intelligence. We do young people a grave disservice when we rely too heavily on the façade of the stiff upper lip.

But we also do God a disservice when we pretend like everything’s just hunky dory. Because God is OK with us not being OK.

God was with Joseph when he was falsely imprisoned. God was with David when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, with Christ when he shouted out those words on the cross – and with all of us as we have echoed the same through the centuries.

Don’t wait until you or a young person you love and care for hits a mental health problem before learning how to talk about mental health. Talk about it now! Share how you’re feeling, identify unhelpful thought patterns and practices, learn what your unique stressors are.

And know that God isn’t interested in the façade of happiness, he’s interested in you and how you’re feeling, and in whatever darkness or light you find yourself in, he’s with you.

Loving God,
You promise that you are always with us and you always keep your promises.
Help us to trust you, always; even when we can’t quite tell where you are.
Thank you that when darkness seems our closest friend, you are closer.
Thank you that when we are in the pit of despair, you reach down and lift us out.
Thank you that when there is pain in the night, joy comes in the morning.
Your love is so high and so wide and so long and so deep and so completely inexhaustible.
Each day, Lord, wherever we are, shine your light in our darkness
And reveal to us a bit more of your love.


Photos: Andrew Neel, Nathan Jefferis