When mental health is the issue…

Posted by on Oct 7, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Most of us are sympathetic when family or friends face an obvious physical ailment. We are often a lot less certain how to respond when it is a mental health issue. Yet all the statistics indicate that large numbers of people struggle in this realm. It’s something we talk about too little. Pleasingly, and going against the trend of silence, the latest edition of the Advocate is devoted to exploring issues of mental health. For those not familiar with the Advocate, it is an award winning Perth based Christian newspaper produced on a monthly basis. I write a regular column for it (and it was these that have been collated together in my latest book Could this be God?) – and have reproduced the one I wrote for this edition. Other contributors to this edition explore questions of mental health in greater depth than this, and I encourage you to follow the link to this excellent edition.

But here is what I wrote. The column has the title Of all the things I have lost…

It was Mark Twain who wittily wrote, ‘of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most’. Some find it hard to smile at that. It’s a little too close to home.

Life can bring one loss after another. The death of parents, then friends, then a spouse. These are harrowing losses. There is often the loss of health. It starts slowly… The game that convinces us our time on the footie team is up. A decade or two later and we marvel that we were ever able to sprint around the field with zest and ease. And then the day dawns when we need a walker to get from one end of the room to the other. Life’s relentless cycle moves along, youth has gone and frailty is the new reality.

For some it is even harder. Perhaps you know the Milton quote, ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can create a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven’. It’s fine if your mind leads you along the first path (and the resilience of some people is truly a gift), but what if it turns the secure and loving into a place of terror and torment?

While it would be nice to think that we are fully in control of our mental health, we are not. Just a slight shifting in the chemical balance in the brain, and we experience our world differently. Be it that we hear voices inaudible to others, or are overwhelmed by depressive episodes that make getting out of bed too hard to contemplate, the mind sometimes takes us along unexpected paths.

Traditionally the church has been good at reaching out to those facing physical frailty. Need some help with a wheelchair and a dozen volunteers are readily at hand. But when someone’s mind needs some sick leave, we are less sure how to act. Why not as we always should…with kindness, openness, respect, good humour, compassion and care? As we do, we might both see the world more clearly…

As always, nice chatting… and once more, here is the link to this edition of the Advocate.


  1. Dear Brian, I am forever grateful to all your hard work in this issue of mental health, (by the way I meet you once when you preached at Lake Joondalup Baptist church).
    I ended my marriage after 13 yrs, coz I could no longer carry on,got sick cancer. as I go to church no one I could talk to about it as seems everyone is happily married except me. But God is good all the time, He restore me, I started got concern of young people who are showing signs mental health, I wish I could help I cheered a young 17 yr old girl and cared for her, she’s ok but…

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