I Think It’s Complicated
A lesson I learned from caring for a killer.
I write almost every day about mental health and ministry. It often seems intimidating and complicated to think of ways to support the huge variety of mental health needs that people have. If you’re in care ministry you sometimes get questions that stop you in your tracks. Your training tells you to look supportive, to nod your head, to just sit there and take it. But, inside you’re thinking, “I have absolutely no idea what to do for you”. It’s easy to forget how simple it can be to support even the most complicated issues.
Here’s An Example
This feeling of inadequacy happened to me one day when a young man who was part of my care group opened up with, “I killed my brother two years ago. I hate myself and I don’t know what to do about it.” I don’t remember my response exactly but I know there was an uncomfortable pause as I considered what I could possibly say to help this guy (and the rest of the group) process and respond to this announcement. I didn’t even think to share any of the great bible stories that applied to his situation. I talked about making sure he was safe and helping him find a support professional. I know I thanked him for sharing something so important and sensitive but I’m sure he was expecting more from me. Fortunately, a couple of group members were very supportive and shared experiences where they had finally opened up about something from their own past.
The Simple Truth I Learned From Caring For a Killer
A few weeks after this incident, this young man approached me after group to tell me that he’d been able to connect with a counselor and that he was working though his family issues (as he called them). I asked him if it was helping. He said that the thing that had helped him the most was just being able to share with our group what was on his heart. He said, “Having someone who would just listen to me made me feel better than I have in two years.” I thought I needed to have answers for this guy’s problems, that I should be able to give him something that would help him overcome his struggle. I forgot the simple truth that – people just want to be heard with a loving ear. The single biggest thing we did to help him was to simply be in relationship with him so he had people he knew he could trust with his pain.
Ministering to mental health is sometimes complicated, but it’s always as easy as listening.
I Could Have Used LifeSupport Resources
Back when our group was meeting there were no resources around like our LifeSupport mental health discussion videos. There are several in our collection that I could have used to equip our group to help support our young friend. Hearing the story of shared experience from a impartial, non-threatening source is a great way to help people open up and talk about painful things. You can explore the video library here.