Over 400 million people per year struggle with emotional, behavioural, or interpersonal problems, but don’t have access to a mental health professional (WHO, 2003) to help them.
In the UK , there is an estimated cost of 70-100 billion pounds per year due to disengaged or under-performing workers. In the US the numbers are similar. The cost of lost employment or decreased productivity has been estimated at 273 billion dollars per year, with about 70 billion being the estimated cost of untreated problems in living. A Rand Corporation report showed that an investment of just $500 per year per employee would more than pay for itself in increased productivity.
It is natural for people to lose their sense of purpose or meaning in the midst of struggle, amplifying their distress and leading to depression and disengagement. Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp, discovered this first hand. While imprisoned under the harshest conditions imaginable, he noticed that fellow prisoners who somehow maintained a sense of purpose and meaning were able to keep going and survive. On the other hand, those who no longer saw the point of going on gave up and were killed. Upon his liberation, these insights would form the basis of Logotherapy (literally ‘meaning’ therapy), wherein clients are helped to discover a sense of meaning in their life. Frankl found that when clients ordered their life in light of its meaning, they found relief and a life of purpose.
As long as the church has existed, it has met people’s felt need for food, education, clothing, advocacy, and medical care while sensitively seeking opportunities to meet their spiritual need.
Why would we not do the same when it comes to coaching people in our communities to find purpose and meaning, while at the same time caring for them as they face adversity or challenge?
"If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart & mind, and then in the last 5 minutes I will share something of the truth."
Some may think that it is better to leave people’s personal problems to mental health professionals. However, even if that were preferable, it isn’t possible. There simply aren’t enough mental health professionals to meet the needs of a struggling world. In some places, the ratio of people in need to professional carers is as high as 100,000 to 1 (WHO, 2003).
And the fact is that people have been helping one another with personal problems long before such a job was professionalized – and it turns out they’re pretty good at it! A large body of research has been conducted in a variety of contexts which suggest that non-professional carers are at least as effective as mental health professionals in helping people with common problems in living.*
*Durlak, 1979; Nietzel and Fisher, 1981; Hattie, Sharpley, and Rogers, 1984; Berman and Norton, 1985; Weisz, Weiss, Alicke, & Klotz, 1987; Christensen and Jacobson, 1994; Smith, Glass, and Miller, 1980; Shapiro and Shapiro, 1982; Faust and Zlotnik 1995; Neuner, Onyut, Ertl, Odenwald, Schauer, and Elbert, 2008; et al.
As secularism increases and people experience pain, disconnection, and disillusionment, those in the Church have an opportunity to meet the hurting where they are— at their point of struggle, in their felt need for help. When this happens, the Church is experienced as relevant again, despite what is often thought of as our post-Christian, post-Church society.
Lifecare provides a forum to love people, just because they are worthy of love, regardless of their background or beliefs. LifeCarers are equipped to help others where and when they can, sensitively sharing the source of their own hope & strength in Jesus along the way.
"I minister to people who have issues in their marriage—issues with intimacy, desertion, parent struggles, and more—people struggling with real life stuff! LifeCare has given me the tools that better equip me to help people in the UK."
-LifeCare Training Participant | Stourbridge, England