It is Mental Health Week in Canada from May 3-9. As we move through this week, I've been thinking about the mental health impact of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns this week. In particular, I've been thinking about a couple of postures that some in our world have been actively encouraging during this time: a victim mentality and being oppositional.

These postures are different from the reality of being a victim or having an opposing perspective. A victim mentality adopts an identity as a victim (often even when they are not, in the situation at hand, a victim). Having a posture of being oppositional doesn't just have a different perspective or aim, it seeks to set oneself up against others. One's identity is found through having someone to oppose and attack.

As it relates to this pandemic, the vast majority of us are not victims. The primary challenge among us - a devastating virus - is impersonal and amoral. It is not targeting anyone. It just is. The collective response to stopping the spread of the virus has caused us all struggles - for some, significant struggles - but that is not the same thing as being victimized. And in our efforts to make wise collective decisions despite disagreement, we don’t need to be or have enemies. An oppositional approach to things divides when what we need most is a united effort to combat the spread of a disease.

My concern is that these negative postures have compounded the negative mental health impact of this pandemic exponentially. Adopting and encouraging these postures (sometimes done using “mental health concerns” as a motive) has piled on more stress and trauma during an already difficult time. As a Christian, I am especially disappointed and heartbroken when those who claim to be leading in the name of Jesus have done this. Rather than being agents of shalom, these voices are rallying troops that will suffer PTSD from unnecessary conflict long after this battle is over and they've moved on to the next.

Psalm 46 offers us a radical contrast to these postures of a victim mentality and opposition. This psalm does not ignore the reality of the struggle. In fact, it starts with it. Rather it invites us into practices that root our identity in God and his presence. It encourages us to find rest in God - a God who is inviting us to "be still." (Other translations render these words, "Stop fighting!" or "That's enough!")

This hope that peace in the midst of the storm is possible is something we desperately need to be reminded of in these challenging days.

At the bottom of this post are a few links with resources for Canadian Mental Health Week. Before you get to them, I invite you to breathe deeply and slowly read and reflect on Psalm 46.

Psalm 46

For the choir director: A song of the descendants of Korah, to be sung by soprano voices.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
7 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Week Site

Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Week 2021 Fact Sheet

Get Your Mental Health In Motion - A week long event and fundraiser for Waypoint Centre For Mental Health Care

1 Comment


Vera Finlay 9 days ago

Thanks Jon, that is a wonderful and very needed message. I agree that many people are already struggling with mental health issues and are not able to filter some suggestions or ideas. I particularly like your comment "An oppositional approach to things divides when what we need most is a united effort to combat the spread of a disease" Reading Psalm 46 and the reminder to "Be Still" helps, and I know I would not be maneuvering as well through this without God's strength.


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