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It’s about more than just knowing the signs

One out of four college students in the U.S. suffers from a mental illness.
Forty-four percent of American college students report having symptoms of depression. Seventy-five percent of college students do not seek help for mental health problems, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students. These statistics can be difficult to understand, especially at a God-centered university like ORU.
Mental health is a touchy subject within the church. Well-meaning people have said that mental health disorders are just “demons” or “spirits” that can be prayed away. While that may be a way to cope with the hardships that mental health brings on, it completely disregards the fact that there may be a chemical imbalance that cannot be treated without therapy or medication.
Don’t be mistaken, having faith in God for healing is very important, but to deny medication or treatment to someone suffering from mental illness is no different than denying someone a doctor when they need one for a physical illness. Rather than prescribing a bit of a verse divorced from its context, a better strategy is to look at those instances of mental suffering along with the Church body and to offer comfort in the fact that even the saints struggled.
Depressed people become really good at hiding their symptoms, even from doctors, because of the stigma attached to the illness. Churches often don’t address mental illness, which gives the worship team guitarist or the elder even more incentive to keep it hidden away. Furthermore, the symptoms of depression often tend to contradict each other, which makes it really difficult for a person suffering from depression to recognize it for what it is—let alone for the Church to recognize it.
“Learning to recognize the signs” often becomes a failing strategy. If churches begin responding to mental disorders as a community willing to offer encouragement and support, people suffering from those illnesses may just be able to accept the help. The people suffering may be people you never expected.
“People don’t have the choice of obtaining a mental illness, but people do have the choice to perpetuate the stigma,” says Alex Lindley, creator of Project Wake Up, an organization aiming to increase suicide awareness.
According to the National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, what we can do to help those in need are as follows:
1.    Choose your words carefully
2.    Know the facts
3.    Listen to everyone
4.    Be aware of your attitude
5.    Educate others
6.    Support others
7.    Be inclusive
8.    Strive to eliminate the stigma
At the end of the day, it’s not about “fixing” someone so they can live without mental illness. It’s about helping those in need and supporting those who have faced a silent difficulty in life, one they didn’t ask for or desire in the first place.