28 September 2021
Mental Health Awareness week
With a special focus on Mental Health Awareness this week, we wanted to offer our community some thoughts, reflections, and encouragements around how to engage with this sometimes delicate subject. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a loving God, and yet this world is not yet free from disease, sin, trouble, and suffering. For some, there might be weariness, shame or discouragement connected to mental health and wellbeing. For others, navigating mental wellbeing is a daily and ongoing journey to be navigated personally and in relationship with others. How do we live, love, bless, and support one another and those in our communities in the area of health and wellbeing – specifically around mental and emotional health?
We asked some of our staff team questions about renewal and healing of minds and hearts and how this relates with our cognition, our emotions, and our bodies. Several lecturers share brief thoughts around mental health awareness and what Scripture and our Christian faith can tell us about the flourishing of whole persons, relationships, and communities.
BRADFORD HAAMI, Pou Amorangi (Māori Director)
The Māori word for mental health is Hauora Hinengaro.
Breaking down these words, Hauora means the living (ora) spiritual essence (Hau – which also means wind of the spirit) which today refers to health; Hinengaro means the woman (Hine) lost, secret, out of sight, undetected (ngaro) which refers to mind, thought, consciousness, mentality. The term Hinengaro is the word for mind in Romans 12:2 and in this case the nature of mentality of the mind is that it is feminine and out of sight or unknowable to the eye. The term health or Hauora refers to the spiritual essence being well and alive. So mental health, Hauora Hinengaro, means the active and well spiritual essence of the unseeable mind.
I like the reference that we all have the mind of Christ in 1 Cor 2:16. This is translated as Kei a tatou ia te hinengaro o te Karaiti.
In Whare Tapa Wha (four-sided house) this aspect of humanity is only one of four areas of life that speaks of holistic wellbeing.
LISA SPRIGGENS, Head of Counselling
Te Whare Tapa Wha is a simple and generally well-known model of health and wellbeing which shows the importance of care of the mind – te taha hinengaro. How do we nourish our minds and how does this affect the wellbeing of other parts of ourselves? This model reminds us that we are whole, embodied beings and that we need to attend to all aspects of ourselves in order to be well.
I think it’s also important to try and resist falling into the ‘we can just think/pray/act away’ difficult feelings or thoughts in our minds. All those things help but it’s also important to remember that it isn’t ‘bad’ if these thoughts or feelings are present or that they don’t disappear easily – they’re often normal responses to difficult situations. Acknowledging them, sitting with them and knowing that they are not permanent and hope is always present. It’s not about overcoming in a triumphalist sense but holding both the difficulty and the hope at the same time.
MAJA WHITAKER, Lecturer in Practical Theology
When we think about what it means to be healthy theologically, we need to move beyond biological definitions of “normal” functioning and think of health as wholeness or well-being in the presence of God - shalom. Health isn’t indicated by the absence of disease, disability or mental health challenges, instead by the person being in right relationship with God, others, and creation. It’s a more holistic way of understanding human health, which resonates with the model of Te Whare Tapa Wha. We are holistic beings, and we need to care for ourselves and others holistically. Our thinking and feeling are grounded in our bodies and embedded in our context and community, you can’t compartmentalise. And so, when we’re attending to our mental health and the mental health of others, we need to consider the whole package, and bring it all – broken and beautiful – before the Father who receives us in His loving presence.
DID YOU KNOW?
In Hebrew you think with your heart and feel emotions with your liver. Incidentally, this is the same as Burmese, in which “broken heart” is “broken liver”.
For Māori, the seat of love and emotion is in the liver – hence the term ‘te tau o taku ate’. But the hinengaro is the mind. The stomach was the seat of anger.
John de Jong and Bradford Haami
While the Scriptures include Hebrew and Greek perspectives on our hearts and minds and what functions happen there (cognition and emotion), rather than debating the nuances, we can offer a couple of conclusions based on what we know. We see that God is interested and concerned about what goes on inside a person – our thinking, our reasoning, our feeling, our understanding. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Paul exhorts the Romans to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2) – with the Greek word used here being the same one used to describe Jesus’ transfiguration. Scripture reminds us that what goes on inside our minds and hearts matters, God cares deeply about it, and the invitation is for our whole persons and bodies to grow more fully into the image and likeness of Christ’s, by the power of the Spirit.
This week, as we highlight the importance of mental health awareness and of attending to our whole persons, we invite you to consider some of these reflections as different ways of approaching the beauty and fragility of what it means to be human.
Here are some practical resources if you or someone you know needs immediate support and relief, or ongoing encouragement for the journey.
Call/text 1737 at any time for support from a trained counsellor.
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0800 543 354
Lifeline: 0508 82 88 65
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Links to other resources:
Sanctuary Mental Health: https://www.sanctuarymentalhealth.org/
Mental Health Foundation: https://mentalhealth.org.nz/
Expressing pain to God in prayer – communal lament exercise: PDF