Mental health disorders have increased following the COVID-19 pandemic, and those within the Church are not immune.
A 2022 Lifeway Research study found that 54% of the pastors said they “have known at least one church member who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness such as clinical depression, bipolar or schizophrenia.” Further, 26% of pastors said they have personally struggled with some type of mental illness.
Jon Seidl hopes that by being brutally honest about his battles with anxiety and OCD, he can help others who are struggling and fix the rampant stigma surrounding mental health challenges, especially within the church.
"In certain areas, it [the church] was really supportive, and in others areas, it wasn't," Seidl explains. "One of the most difficult conversations that I've ever had was with my mom. I was raised in a faith tradition that said if you just pray about mental health struggles, if you just have faith, if you repent from some unrepented sin that you forgot about, then you're all good. And you definitely don't take medication."
"In my conversation with my psychiatrist, I got on medication. I called my mom to tell her that, but it didn't go well. I think that's the story of so many people."
Seidl shares his story while mixing compelling stories with Biblical truths and humour in his book, Finding Rest: Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, faith and Life.
"I didn’t write this book because I wanted to. I wrote this book because I needed to. I know what it’s like to feel lost, hopeless and confused. To have a plan to end it all because the anxiety and depression feel heavier than an Alaskan snowfall,” says Seidl. “This is for those who need a guide, for those who have been forgotten, misunderstood and misguided, especially by the church, which hasn’t addressed mental health in a helpful way."
"I also needed to write it for my wife and those like her — the people who love those of us with anxiety but don’t know how to help and are often caught in the crossfire when they try."
He has now written a guiding workbook, Finding Rest: An Invitation to Go Deeper, to challenge readers to dive deep and answer tough questions as they consider how their struggles can be used for their good and God's glory.
“This isn’t your normal stare-into-your-coffee-cup-and-smile type of resource. It’s meant to challenge you. It’s meant to push you. It’s meant to grow you,” writes Seidl. “I haven’t overcome in the past tense, but I am overcoming in the present tense. I’m journeying right along with you. In other words, I’m working on everything in this workbook right along with you. When I challenge you, I’m challenging myself as well. And I’m never going to ask you to do something I’m not willing to do.”
The “Finding Rest” Guiding Workbook not only gives those struggling helpful insight, but it also provides a lifeline for friends and family who long for ways to help relieve the suffering of their loved ones as well as thoughtful, needed paths for leaders in the Church and the general body of Christ to become a refuge of hope for the anxious.
“If you’re a friend or family member, you can be used by God. If you’re an anxiety sufferer, God can use others to help you, and He can use you to help others understand how He is at work amid your mental health struggles. It’s a beautiful, multifaceted story that shows us exactly how God can work,” Seidl writes.
Today on Connections, Jon shares ways to cope with anxiety. He also shares how the church can do a better job supporting those who are struggling.