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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Surviving or Thriving?

Before Theresa May announced the snap election, the UK news cycle was dominated by Prince Harry talking about how losing his mother had impacted his mental health.

Giles Coren, writing in the Times (April 22nd 2017) was scathing: ‘Do we really need Prince Harry to de-stigmatise mental illness? …  I can’t think of a pop star or actor who hasn’t talked about their depression or anxiety.’

As someone who has struggled with depression since my early teens, I’m grateful to anyone willing to go public with what still feels like a slightly shameful thing to confess. Although, according to a 2016 report, nearly half of adults believe they’ve had a diagnosable mental health problem at some point during their lifetime, there is still stigma to be overcome.

You may or may not be aware that next week is Mental Health Awareness Week.  This year’s theme is ‘Surviving or Thriving?’ Mark Rowland, Director of Fundraising and Communications for the campaign explains, ‘We are flipping the focus away from mental ill-health to exploring how we can cultivate good mental health … Human beings are probably the most resilient creatures on the planet. Through countless setbacks, we have learnt how to survive but we are only now starting to understand how to thrive.’

Here are three of the strategies I’ve developed as a Christian to cultivate good mental health, alongside medication and therapy:

1.    Commit to a Christian community

One of the great gifts (and challenges) of being a Christian is belonging to a church family. Close relationships make life bearable.

2.    Memorise as much of the Bible as you can

Jesus fought off the devil with Scripture. When our minds are infused with biblical truth we have a better chance of defeating destructive thoughts and remaining strong through setbacks.

3.    Develop a habit of gratitude

Thanking God with regularity and sincerity is not only the right thing to do, but it can change your entire outlook. There is always something we can be grateful for.

Sometimes, even survival seems impossibly hard. If this is you, today, I pray you will hold on in blind faith, because we’ve been promised an end to our suffering. One day the last tear will be wiped away and we will be whole and happy in God’s presence for all eternity.  (Revelation 21: 1-4)


Jo Swinney
Jo is an author, speaker and the editor of Preach magazine. Her latest book, Home: the quest to belong (Hodder) is out in June. She blogs at joswinney.com and tweets as @JoSwinney


  1. Thank you very much

    By SAbine  -  5 May 2017
  2. Fantastic commentary!
    Thank you for unveiling your vulnerability, this is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.

    By Yazz  -  5 May 2017
  3. Great blog!

    By Jenny Scott-Thompson  -  5 May 2017
  4. Really helpful 3 practical actions

    By Jim Rathbone  -  6 May 2017
  5. Thank you for this, Jo. Sound advice and encouragement, all solidly, scripturally based.

    By Niall Crozier  -  6 May 2017
  6. I know too well the feeling of waking up and being anxious about and dreading the new day. Through a lot of exploration and self-work, I am in a completely different place.

    After recovering from ME / CFS around 7 years ago using a coaching, hypnotherapy and NLP based programme, my mind was opened to just how powerfully we are created – and how the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make about how and what we think radically influences our lives (for good or literally ill).

    The Bible tells us to “take every thought captive for Christ” and to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”… in the work I do, though I am using secular tools to help people with emotional issues, these Bible principles are absolutely foundational. Also belief that we can heal and change make all the difference – if we believe we can’t recover or change…. then we won’t even try!!

    By Michelle McKail  -  6 May 2017
  7. One of the most striking biblical images of apparent mental illness, for me, is that of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel – hair and nails left to grow grotesquely, shunned from society, treated as less than human. The tendency to distance ourselves from mental illness is longstanding and entrenched.
    We still live in a society where it feels necessary to invent euphemisms when mental illness makes us go off sick from work, where fear and lack of understanding leave us floundering as we are confronted by the rising tide of self-harm and suicide among our young people. In my experience, church communities are not immune from such tendencies, but yes, are well placed to offer support and fellowship if fear and lack of understanding can be overcome.
    Anything which can increase that understanding and dispel stigma – this article included – must be welcomed.

    By Christian  -  6 May 2017

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