What is the intersection between mental health and faith? Jacqueline Tams, a fourth-year student studying psychology at the University of British Columbia–Okanagan, is passionate about understanding that intersection and exploring how churches can provide better support for people who are struggling.
“Anxiety and depression rates continue to rise, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19,” Tams said. “I believe mental wellness and spiritual health are intrinsically linked together, and the Bible is full of wisdom for Christians struggling with their mental health.”
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in any given year one in five Canadians experience a mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports the same statistics for the United States.
“I think it definitely hits the university age group the hardest since so many people are moving away and their support system isn’t necessarily there,” Tams said. “That’s such an important role that the church has—not necessarily being worried about taking massive steps of professional counseling, but to take simple steps in forming support and community.”
Recently Tams took it upon herself to provide that support and community for students and young professionals by leading a small group exploring mental health topics. An Emerging Leader grant from Resonate Global Mission helped make it possible.
In partnership with Christian Reformed campus ministries, the Emerging Leaders program equips young adults for ministry, both for right now and in the future, by providing financial support, mentorship, and an opportunity for hands-on ministry experience.
“Jacqueline is … devout, hardworking, ambitious, and deeply concerned with the mental health of her peers,” said Todd Statham, a Resonate partner campus minister at the University of British Columbia–Okanagan.
As part of the Emerging Leader process, Statham mentored Tams. Reading books and discussing them together, they explored the intersection of faith, psychology, and mental health. Then Tams partnered with a local church called The House to lead a small group covering various mental health topics.
Students from the university campus and a few young professionals from the community showed up each week. Tams followed God’s lead in the purpose for this group. It became a space where students could not only learn about mental health, but where they could open up and talk about their experiences. Tams leaned into that.
“We had a discussion on where we were all at and the strategies we use, and we kind of just built that community together,” she said.
Tams said she found the experience as an Emerging Leader to be valuable for living out her faith as well as for her future career.
“It was great to be in both roles—being mentored, and then mentoring in a small group role and connecting with people who were younger than me on campus—being that friendly face,” she said.
Tams expects to graduate this spring. She plans to take a gap year and apply to graduate schools to continue her study of psychology.