National statistics suggest more than one in four suffer from some form of mental illness and churches across the country are beginning to face the reality of mental health issues in their congregations.  Brad Hoefs directs Fresh—Christ centered support groups springing up in churches for those who suffer from mood disorders as well as their loved ones. He joins us to talk about the growth in mental health ministry in the church, and offer fresh hope for families affected.

Brad shares his journey of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As his church grew and the stress level increased, he suddenly had an increase in his energy level and started making decisions that were out of character for him. After having a minor run in with the law, he was diagnosed and was “thankful to find that out” because it answered many questions in his mind.

Listen as he and Neil address the mental health journey. Brad shares several aspects:

  • His own symptoms. “Sin affected the brain as well…”
  • How his church family reacted to his diagnosis. “People who have never experienced it judge it as spiritual rather than chemical – the ability of the brain to function is based on chemistry.”
  • Common misconceptions regarding mental illness
  • The ‘great divide’ between faith and science and how we can address that in biblical counseling
  • Steps to lessen the effects of depression and mental health – daily exercise, taking thoughts captive, cultivating gratitude, and healthy eating
  • How to keep your “hope tank” full – In Brad’s words, “The kind of hope we’re talking about can only come from Jesus Christ.”
  • How to encourage a person who is wrestling with thoughts of pain and death

As Brad struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, he needed to make a choice to trust God and the unshakeable hope of the gospel rather than his own emotions. He went to various support groups but left even more discouraged. Finally he decided to put together his own resources and start Christ-centered support groups for those who live with mental health and the people who support them. That evolved into Fresh Hope which facilitates groups across several states and provides help and comfort for those who are struggling.

Mental health and the church

Image: Flickr