May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s mental health due to loss of loved ones, jobs, and isolation. 

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Michelle Madden, a trained chaplain for Suicide Prevention and Support, told CBN News why awareness of the issue is so important.

“It helps people to realize that ‘Wow, if it’s on the calendar as a month, it’s OK for me to talk up and say there’s something going on with me,'” she explained. 

Between August 2020 and February 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cases of anxiety and depression rose from 36.4% to 41.5%. 

Madden said one of the most concerning things she has seen is the uptick in the number of young people struggling mentally.

“They’re acting out and the parents are like, ‘What’s going on?’ And sometimes it is a reflection of that parent. If the parents have anxiety the children are picking up on it too,” Madden explained. “It’s something we have to be talking with our kids about.”

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In 2014, Madden lost a brother and a cousin to suicide. Afterward, she started attending a Survivors of Suicide Loss group, and within two years she began facilitating the group, leading it for ten years. She also started a faith-based suicide loss group called Aftershock at her church The Rock located in San Diego, California.

She said it is important to be sensitive to the needs of people who may be struggling with depression, loneliness, and other mental health issues, including in the church.

“We have to be willing to sit down and look at people in the eye and listen to them and hear them,” explained Madden.  “We have to see them as people. Jesus spent time sitting with people, talking with them and we need to do the same thing.”

It is something she says people need now more than ever.

“When COVID first happened, what did people start doing?  They started going through their phones and they started texting people, ‘Hey haven’t heard from you in a long time.’ And we connected with people,'” said Madden.

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