In honor of World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, Hanbeet Rhee, a member of the Ecumenical Youth Council in Korea and a member of the World Council of Churches ECHOS Commission on Youth, shared her personal encouragement and testimony about the importance of caring for one’s mental health.
“When I was 22, three of my friends committed suicide,” recalled Rhee. “At the time I didn’t know what to do.”
She went to her local congregation and shared her sad news with the church members. “But I couldn’t get enough of the kind of help I needed,” she said. “They asked me to read the Bible more, pray more and concentrate on God deeply.”
Four years later, she had mental disorders, including depression and panic disorder, but it was difficult for her to recognize and acknowledge her condition by herself. “That’s why I still didn’t know what I needed to do and what choice I should make,” she said. “So I just kept repeating my daily life until the darkness in my heart devoured me.”
Rhee described her life as “covered with gray color.” She couldn’t see any bright thing in her life—even though, in Korean, her name means “grand light.”
But her friends didn’t give up. “They advised me to go to a counselor or a medical doctor to get help,” she said. “I knew how much they loved me so I followed their advice.”
Things then changed very quickly. “The experts actually helped me a lot,” she said. “I’m still dealing with it because I was a little bit late to start to treat it but my condition has improved a lot.”
One of her friends in the ecumenical movement once said to her, “Hanbeet, the world created by God is a colorful thing. If you see only gray, black or other dark colors for now, it means that the other warm colors and bright colors will come to your life one day for sure. So please wait for them.”
Now Rhee is living in a colorful world, and shares her story to encourage others. “If your life is covered with dark colors, I’d like to say that life is very colorful,” she said. “Please expect your colorful life and I will pray for you.”
Churches and mental health
Joy Eva Bohol, WCC programme executive for Youth Engagement, said that it is crucial for faith communities to address mental health.
“In fact, mental health wellbeing compliments our spiritual wellbeing,” she said. “Young people, more than other age group, experience mental health issues in our generation today.”
Facing industrialization, climate change, migration, globalization, and the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health needs have become even more amplified, Bohol said. “On the other hand, there are young professionals in the field of psychology who are willing and able to accompany and support our churches in addressing mental health,” she said.
“Churches must end stigma on mental health and create inclusive spaces that offer mental health care alongside pastoral counseling in our congregations,” Bohol urged. “We need to be reminded of Christ’s calling for us to be a place of healing and acceptance.”