Contributed by Kayla Warner, Fresh Hope Group Leader
About 6 years ago a friend and I were talking about what we could do to help with mental health in our church and community. Together we decided to begin a small group at our church with no real plan other than we wanted to have a place that people could get support for mental health challenges. A year after we started, God led me to see an advertisement for Fresh Hope for Mental Health
, a Christian-based support group that we could begin at our church, with a full curriculum. I remember excitedly calling up my co-leader and telling her about it. “This is exactly what we have needed!” I exclaimed. Little did I know it was just the beginning of what God would do throughout the next 5 years.
Our adults group began meeting at Bethel several months ago, along with the teen group that we began in March of 2019. It is great to see the hope that the group brings to people that attend, no matter what their age. One of the best things to see was when the teens in our group began reaching out to one another outside of group and seeking support between the weeks that we met. This is really the reason we want to have group, so people, whether afflicted or affected, can realize they are not alone in the struggle with mental health.
There remains the problem with stigma, even within the church. I really like to think of mental illness as mental health or brain health. It is a physical problem. The hard part for most people to fully grasp is how differently brain health problems manifest compared to other physical issues or illnesses. Yet brain health can be affected by so many things, including traumatic brain injuries, allergies to different things like foods or chemicals, and adverse early experiences, such as abuse or neglect. We are often quick to judge someone with brain health problems, yet we do not judge someone in the same way that has diabetes, for example. Because mental health affects so many areas of life it is looked at differently, and people are treated differently because of it. Many people that have these types of problems have not brought them on themselves, just as you can say that an otherwise healthy person did not bring cancer on themselves. Illness to our bodies - all parts of the body - sometimes just happen. Just as people need support while going through cancer treatments, people need support when going through attacks on their brain.
The Fresh Hope groups we have at Bethel provide peer-to-peer support for people who struggle with mental health problems and for their loved ones. What makes Fresh Hope different than other support groups is the element of hope and encouragement it provides because we have Christ! There is a different feel compared to other support groups, when we are able to focus on infusing scripture and looking forward in hope during our meetings. One woman that has been in our group since the beginning said “I’m thankful for group because I’m not alone in this work… I’m held accountable in the love of Christ Jesus. I’ve learned coping skills, been encouraged not to give up, and I know the diagnosis doesn’t define me.”
Each group meeting starts with reading 6 tenets or goals, based in scripture, followed by a check-in time, in which includes members sharing how their mood has been and the level of their “hope tank”. We then move into an education time and discuss an article or topic that is of interest to the group and have time to talk about how things have gone the last week on an individual basis. Our goal is to help each other to live well in spite of having a mental health diagnosis.
Anyone is welcome to join our groups at any time. They are free and ongoing because mental health never takes a break. If you or anyone you know needs support, please join us.
Our Fresh Hope groups are currently meeting online on Thursdays. Fresh Hope for Teens meets at 1:00pm and Fresh Hope for Mental Health (adult group) meets at 6pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to join in the weekly meeting.