There can be a point when dealing with disaster, when dealing with this pandemic, when dealing with any kind of situation that is ongoing and relentless, where not only does our spiritual health need help but our emotional and mental health need help. There is no shame in asking for that help. (Time: 5:44)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. Every week and actually every opportunity I get to talk with you about your spiritual health, I take. This week I want to talk with you about something slightly different – very much related to your spiritual health but different – and that is your mental health.
Let me start by taking us to a Psalm. If you do Evening Prayer you're going to hear this Psalm again tonight. It's one of the three Psalms, 12, 13 and 14 assigned for this evening. And the first verse of Psalm 13 says, "How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?"
There can be a point when dealing with disaster, when dealing with this pandemic, when dealing with any kind of situation that is ongoing and relentless and that leads to so much confusion and change over a long period of time. There can be a point where not only does our spiritual health need help but our emotional and mental health need help. That those things can start to erode from the prolonged stress and prolonged uncertainty. It's helpful to hear those words from the Psalm and so often we hear words like that in the Psalms, where someone, some ancient person, asked, "Where are you God? Will you forget me forever?" "How long do I have to wait to hear from you?"
It's helpful to know that we are not the first, and we are probably not the last, who turn to God in a sense of hopelessness, that actually says something about the hope that we still hold kindled in our hearts. While the world seems really tough and impossible, and circumstances seem so hard for us to overcome, that we still turn to God with a sense of hope.
It's also important to know that this constant stress that we have been dealing with can wear down our sense of health, of where we are mentally and emotionally, and sometimes that wearing down takes more than the kind of support that you can receive from your clergy person, or receive from your small group or support group, or receive from your family members. That sometimes we need to ask for help from a professional. We need to get the help of a therapist or a psychotherapist or a doctor – someone who can help us get our mental health to a place where it is able to sustain the amount of change, the amount of stress, the amount of worry that we're having to navigate, and will continue to navigate for weeks probably into months as this virus continues to work its way around our country and around the world.
There is no shame in asking for help. This is the wonderful thing about the Psalms and that we see all through scripture is that people ask God for help all the time. We've learned this as faithful people. There is no shame in asking for help, and we are only too happy to give help to someone or to receive help when we need it. And I want to be clear as the spiritual leader of this diocese that has an eye out on all the clergy and on all of the congregations and all of the organizations – let me say clearly there is no shame in asking for help, to make sure that your mental health gets the help that it needs in order for you to be fit, in order to weather this storm that we call COVID-19.
In this newsletter are numbers that you can call if you are feeling sad or depressed and you are thinking about the end of life and ending it yourself. There are numbers that you can call if you're thinking about suicide. There are numbers that you can call if you need help finding a therapist. There are numbers that you can call if you just need to talk to somebody, that we can get you connected to. Many of those numbers are provided by organizations who've been doing this kind of work for years and years, that have decades of history in terms of helping people through crisis. So I want to encourage you.
I also want you to know that asking for help is going to be something that God is listening to do, and will help you in finding the kind of help that you need, to make sure that you get healthy and that you stay healthy. That same Psalm, going further on, ends like this, "I put my trust in your mercy. My heart is joyful because of your saving help." My prayer is that you will put your trust in God's mercy and let God's help come from wherever it needs to come, whether that is your priest, your friend or your therapist. Your mental health is a blessing given to you by God.