On a day like today – Valentine’s Day in case you’ve missed it – it’s easy to think that love is nothing more than flowers and chocolates between two people who romance one another.
We’ve seen the adverts for last minute delivery of red roses and cards; but what has all that got to do with mental illness?
Well, the roses and chocolates don’t have anything to do with mental illness the but the meaning behind them does.
Love has to be front and centre of our response to those struggling with mental health issues. Love without the roses and heart-eyed emojis (although I’m not personally averse to either) – but fierce love of God.
Love is what drives out stigma – because love leaves no room for stigma.
As John Swinton and Jean Vanier write in their Inclusive Church guide on mental health;
“The call of Jesus is to hear the cries for love and move forwards in friendship and perseverant love; a mode of friendship which destroys stigma and opens up space for all of us together to be fully human even in the midst of our wildest storms.”
Following the call of Jesus to love God, ourselves and our neighbour is what brought Zaccheus down from his hiding place, and what made four friends dig a hole in man’s roof to get their friend to Jesus.
Our churches can show this kind of love in big ways by raising mental health awareness and reaching out to those in need – and in the small acts of love between one another – asking someone how they are and listening for the answer and ensuring that no-one is left feeling unwelcome or unable to participate in church life.
Love looks beyond diagnoses and sees humanity – and this is how we beat stigma.