Turning a blind eye is not the Christian way

You sometimes see it in a person’s eyes. They are trying their very best to put up a brave front. It’s to tell the world and to convince themselves that everything is fine. However, all is not well. They are one small step away from falling apart and breaking down.

Mental health and wellbeing issues have for a long time been overlooked or ignored and, in some cultures and societies, it is still a taboo subject. Many people struggle to talk or share about a loved one who is suffering mental illness, and it’s even harder if they have had or are going through a breakdown. This makes supporting them or their loved ones challenging and difficult.

In the gospel story of the Good Samaritan, a traveller is attacked by brigands. It wasn’t his fault that he was robbed and assaulted. The same can be said for people with mental health issues. Only a few people choose to help them, perhaps for fear of not knowing what to do or how to help. Like the priest and the levite who walked past the traveller who’d been attacked, they perhaps ask themselves, “What can I possibly do to help this person? Perhaps it’s better for someone else with experience or expertise to come along to help them.” But what if no one else comes along? And what if no one else notices the warning signs of the impending breakdown?

Jesus poses this question, “Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?”  

“The one who took pity,” was the reply.

It was a strong movement of the heart and the soul that moved the Samaritan to action. Though he himself did not have the time to care for the traveller, he did what he could and left the man in the care of the innkeeper.

So, perhaps when we notice someone doing it tough mentally, we do not need to be the one – like the Samaritan – to shoulder the primary responsibility, but we can assist in other ways. We might keep the hotline number for Beyond Blue or Lifeline on hand, for example, or put the person in touch with people who will be able to care for them or attend a workshop on mental health first aid to build our knowledge and skills.

In December 2021, the first insights from the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-21 were released. The study showed that 15% of Australians experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress. For those between the ages of 16 and 34, this increased to 20%. That’s one in every five young Australians!

As Christians we are called to help those in need. To be like the Samaritan and to help a person in distress takes courage. We don’t always need to do the heavy lifting, but we also can’t ignore another person’s suffering.

Mark Chia CSsR

© Majellan Media 2022

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