Ariana Grande donates money on behalf of mental illness, but where’s the church?

photo by Andrew Seaman

So as you may already know, Ariana Grande just recently donated 5 million dollars to BetterHelp (an online counseling service) as a way to provide a month of free therapy for anyone who needs it. Therapy has been a topic of discussion within my family for years now. My 8 year old son is autistic and ADHD, and my 10 year old daughter suffers from anxiety. Luckily they qualify for our states free health insurance so they are both in therapy! But my husband and I don’t qualify due to our income. However, as we all know, making too much money to qualify for free healthcare does not neccasarily mean you make enough to afford therapy. Therapy is extremely expensive. I get it, and I am in no way disrespecting the level of education or knowledge that is required to provide these types of services. What I have a problem with is health insurances not doing a better job at supporting mental health in the same ways they do physical and medical health needs.

The risks of not receiving proper mental health support, can be just as devastating as neglecting to receive medical treatment when needed.

In the past few years my husband and I have gone through A LOT – personal, family, and even within our marriage. Our need for therapy has left us anxious and frustrated due to our inability to afford it. However, recently we decided to have my husband do therapy through BetterHelp because it is an affordable option and allows you the flexibility to engage with a therapist through messaging or video chats. Due to his unhealed childhood trauma, it made the most sense for us to make space in our budget for him to have therapy over me – at least for right now. But if I’m being honest, me neglecting my own needs has been my entire life story. I’m tired. I’m drained. When do I get that type of help and support?

So when I found out that Ariana was giving away a free month of therapy, I quickly jumped on it! (to receive this go to www.betterhelp.com/ariana) If you’ve done BetterHelp before then you know that even after you stop doing it, you continue to receive journaling prompts based on your past engagement with a therapist. And, in one month of therapy you absolutely can receive helpful tools to guide you through future issues surrounding the problems you discussed. So regardless of your opinions on Ariana, I think we should all be able to agree that this is an incredible thing that she is doing. I think it’s incredible because no one else is doing it…

including the church.

And maybe you’re thinking “or we could just have free healthcare” haha. Well. That’s an entirely different conversation. All I’ll say on that, is that I do believe the healthcare system is messed up and needs reform. But I also believe that the church was created to step in when society and the world is just that – messed up. I truly believe that the church is loosing people and will continue to, as it goes down the path of performance over people.

Why do I bring that up? Because both my husband and I grew up in the church. So when I found out that someone was using their platform as a way to support people who need this kind of help, I thought to myself “why is the church not using their platform to support people that need this kind of help?” In some ways what Ariana is doing for people who are suffering mentally and emotionally, is more than what the church historically has done, and we need to be talking about it. I’ll start off by saying that this is not an accusation against ALL churches, but just my thoughts based on personal experiences and what I know about churches overall through growing up within Christian culture.

I am 35 years old and have been attending church since I was born. One thing I have noticed is that the church is constantly asking people to step into roles that require them to invest in others, without them being invested in themselves. This leads to burn out and certainly never produces healthy leadership. For example: In the past my husband has been a worship leader who invested many years and hours into it, but yet he never had anyone offer to invest in him on a deep level. Asking people to pour out so much of themselves and their time, without offering them a way to be filled back up, is toxic. Churches will passionately ask people to volunteer, or will scramble to fill in the gaps if the drummer cancels last minute for a Sunday morning service, but won’t put in that same diligence in making sure people are being invested in. And leadership development is not the same thing as discipleship. So when we talk about mental illness and the church, we can start right there. If this is how a church treats their leaders and volunteers, that’s an indicator that they aren’t going to have the appropriate support for people with deeper needs.

Churches can find people to take off a week of work to go on a mission trip to a different country, but then they lack leaders that can mentor and invest in people on a deeper level.

At a previous church that I attended, I reached out to a woman that I had a connection to in several different aspects. She was older than me, and I looked up to her spiritually. My husband and I were having some challenges within our marriage and I wanted to know if she could provide us with any support. She then referred me to someone else in our church that she said had provided marriage counseling before. When I reached out to that woman, she literally just referred me to several therapy centers that she knew of in the area. I was confused… isn’t this a church? Why should my husband and I pay for counseling when we attend a church filled with leaders? This is not to put down those two women, but just to prove the point that there was nothing set up within the church to support people in that way.

I’m sure there are churches out there doing a better job than this, but I know that my own experience sadly isn’t the only one out there.

Now a days we also have people within churches becoming things like spiritual life coaches, and some of them are charging for their services! And I’m ok with the fact that the church pays pastors and other full time positions within the church, but when the church is boarder-line paying someones mortgage, then you know that we have strayed far from the mission of Jesus. THIS IS NOT WHAT THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO BE.

Jesus said to make disciples, not money.

Ariana is famous and therefore has the money to do something like that, yes. But the church is also “famous” and has money constantly coming in as well. My husband and I should not be asked to tithe, but then be expected to pay for counseling outside the church. I said what I said. And don’t even get me started on all the mega churches that could literally be sponsoring handfuls of people to get the mental health services that they need – because some people really do need professional help. Therefore I do not think that all matters can or should be dealt with by someone within the church. But when they can’t, is the church ready and equipped to support that individual financially in some capacity if they need?

The church is notorious for being “pro-life” for example, but then isn’t set up to support a soon to be single mom who is battling mental illness trying to decide if they want to keep the baby or not. Make it make sense.

So all in all, what I’m saying is that I think there are two very specific ways that the church can do better: Model ACTUAL discipleship, and then also find ways to financially give back to mental health services as a way to support people within the community.

I don’t know what goes on in every church, and I imagine there are many out there handling all of this in a more Christ like way. But all I know is that when I heard about what Ariana was doing, I was immediately triggered to feel frustrated. Why is a pop singer feeling led to do something so bold that the church has yet to match?

If you are a pastor or a church leader reading this, I am going to encourage you to honestly ask yourself if you think your church is doing all they can for the people in your community that are battling mental illness or just emotional stress of any kind.

These are things to consider when famous people donate 5 million dollars into a crisis that the church is time and time again unequipped to handle.

People are hurting, and churches need to do better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s