My name is Cianne (yes, pronounced like the colour cyan). As a child I was always taught by my Dad to ask a lot of questions and by my Mum to be kind to everyone I meet, and so came a curiosity and a love of learning about new things and people. Anything from figuring out how to be a better listener to mulling over the beastly images in the book of Revelation can keep me thinking for ages. I adore spending time with children (perhaps it is their curious nature that intrigues me?) and work as a children’s ministry leader at Glen Eden Baptist Church. Alongside this I am heading into my 6th year of study at Carey College. After completing the Intermission year, I was hooked! Drawn back for more theological study, I completed the Bachelor of Applied Theology and the Missions Track all the while God has been revealing to me new ways of thinking and being – which leads to the next endeavour of learning.
It was a contemplative night, as a youth leader I had helped to set up an environment that was creative and reflective, opening space for the youngsters to spend time with God in artistic and peaceful ways. Part way through the night one of our young leaders came to me with teary eyes. What unfolded was his story of a silent struggle with an intense sadness that was hard to put into words. A deep depression that went unnoticed to others but felt like a heavy cloud for this young man. I found myself lost in uncertainty about how to respond, what to say, think or do. In the years that followed I encountered more and more people who shared similar stories with me and thus grew a curiosity in me that questioned what was going on? What could be done to help? And most pressingly why were these struggles never spoken of? So with my Dad’s curious nature and my Mum’s empathetic heart, I began a journey into mental health and Christian faith.
This journey has led to the planning of a master’s thesis that seeks to explore the experience of depression and anxiety among young people within our local churches. The goal of this research is to listen to the mental health stories of Christians between the ages of 18 and 30 who live with depression or anxiety and to reflect on these experiences. While the details of the study are still being worked out, I hope that the outcome of this research project will be a discerning revelation into this mental health struggle and its presence in our local churches. I commence this work then, desiring to theologically reflect on this topic so that future work might be done to build healthy and safe practices within churches for people with mental health challenges – remembering Christ’s words: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” (John 10.10).
Depression & Anxiety in NZ – Dr Phil Halstead
Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Study from 2006, as cited on the incredibly helpful depression.org website, identified that 1 in 7 people in NZ will experience depression before they are 24, 1 in 4 will experience anxiety, and 1 in 5 persons with depression or anxiety will experience both conditions at the same time. Making matters worse, my research reveals that these sobering stats are on the up and up today both inside and outside of the church. This suggests that all of us either struggle with depression or anxiety ourselves, and/or know persons who do so. It also means that we all have some knowledge of the dire effects of depression and anxiety in people’s lives, communities, and churches. Given this reality, Cianne’s research is incredibly timely. I am confident that through it, Cianne will help us all to deepen our understanding of depression and anxiety and respond with pastoral aplomb. So please watch this space: God is on the move! Help is on its way!
A further resource on this subject can be found in this article written by Dr Phil – Mental Health and the Church: A Pastoral Care Structure that Assists Individuals, Families, and Congregations Affected by Mental Health Concerns.