How Faith Institutions Can Become Lifesaving Mental Health Agents

Last Thurs­day, I attend­ed the bur­ial of Dr. Ger­shon Mwiti, an excep­tion­al leader and a promi­nent mem­ber of the Methodist Church. He had known me since my child­hood and always had pow­er­ful advice for me. He often told me in no uncer­tain terms that, ‘you can only slay the drag­on of cor­rup­tion through the sword of courage.’ In a recent inter­view, Dr. Mwiti pro­claimed words that should res­onate loud­ly with every Kenyan of good­will, “we must hate all that is evil, cor­rupt and damaging.”

Inci­den­tal­ly, dur­ing his bur­ial there were dam­ag­ing pub­lic remarks con­cern­ing ongo­ing wran­gles in the Methodist Church. While it’s easy for oth­er non-Methodist Chris­tians to regard these pub­lic rows in the Methodist Church with indif­fer­ence, the truth is that sev­er­al oth­er main­stream denom­i­na­tions are also under­go­ing divi­sive strife.

Last year dur­ing the Angli­can Church’s Lam­beth Con­fer­ence, there were glar­ing dif­fer­ences occa­sioned by mat­ters of sex­u­al­i­ty. So glar­ing were these dif­fer­ences that Angli­can lead­ers from Nige­ria, Rwan­da and Ugan­da boy­cotted the conference.

Evi­dent­ly, there are severe doc­tri­nal and lead­er­ship dif­fer­ences with­in Chris­t­ian denom­i­na­tions and between them. These dif­fer­ences are play­ing out in the pub­lic, fur­ther divid­ing congregants.

When the Church is pre­oc­cu­pied with putting out inter­nal fires, they lose sight of soci­etal fur­naces that need to be extinguished.

For instance, our nation is going through a silent epi­dem­ic of men­tal ill­ness, a sit­u­a­tion that is mir­rored across the world. Accord­ing to the World Health Organ­i­sa­tion, 1 in every 8 peo­ple in the world live with a men­tal dis­or­der. Such dis­or­ders are char­ac­ter­ized by con­di­tions like depres­sion and extreme anx­i­ety. Just last Wednes­day, I attend­ed the bur­ial of a close male friend of mine who com­mit­ted sui­cide. Thank­ful­ly, his fam­i­ly hon­ored his lega­cy, which includes his strug­gles, by open­ly address­ing the cause of his death. Indeed, we should stop sham­ing vic­tims of depres­sion and oth­er forms of men­tal illness.

Men are more prone to com­mit sui­cide than women. A World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) Report revealed that in 2017, 421 Kenyans com­mit­ted sui­cide. Out of these, 330 were men. This trend remains the same six years lat­er as men con­tin­ue to take their lives more than women. Last week alone there were three sui­cides and a mur­der in a Kiambu vil­lage in one night. It is no won­der that WHO states that 730,000 peo­ple com­mit sui­cide annually.

The Church and oth­er Faith Insti­tu­tions must be on the fore­front of putting out this fire of depres­sion before it burns down more lives. Faith lead­ers are spir­i­tu­al guardians who are charged with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of ensur­ing the spir­i­tu­al well­be­ing of their con­gre­gants. Such spir­i­tu­al well­be­ing is a strong anti­dote against depres­sion and anxiety.

The Church can­not under­take this crit­i­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty if it is under­go­ing peren­ni­al infighting.

In his first let­ter to the Corinthi­ans, Paul admon­ish­es them to cease divid­ing them­selves into cliques that pur­port to fol­low either him or Apol­los.  He pro­ceeds to remind them in the sixth verse that, ‘I plant­ed the seed, Apol­los watered it, but God made it grow.’

The pre­dom­i­nant focus of faith insti­tu­tions should there­fore be God not leader X or Y. Even legit­i­mate lead­er­ship wran­gles should be resolved in a way that doesn’t pres­sur­ize the faith­ful to take sides between the said lead­ers X or Y.

Giv­en the enor­mi­ty of the men­tal health chal­lenges that we are fac­ing, Faith Insti­tu­tions should in fact be uni­fy­ing their efforts to com­bat men­tal disorders.

We can­not afford to lose more lives because of men­tal ill­ness. Faith lead­ers and adher­ents must join hands to pro­mote the men­tal health that is at the heart of spir­i­tu­al well­be­ing. Even as we do so through dif­fer­ent doc­tri­nal and reli­gious path­ways, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is God who waters our spir­its and shields us from the kind of depres­sion and anx­i­ety that is snuff­ing out lives. Think green, act green.


About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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