Help for those struggling like Harry

Rev David Clarke.
Rev David Clarke.

Prince Harry has won plaudits on all sides by the honesty with which he has spoken about his mental struggles, following the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana.

For almost all of the 20 years since Diana’s death, Harry had refused to think about his loss; and then came two years of what he termed ‘chaos’.

His approach had a serious effect both on his personal life and his work.

Harry’s boldness in speaking on this sensitive matter shows that struggles with mental health issues are not out of the ordinary.

Even the most unlikely candidates can be affected.

The Bible tells how Elijah, tough as granite, fearless before wicked Queen Jezebel, once reached a point where he asked that he might die.

‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers’ (1 Kings 19;4).

Indeed, many grapple with such problems on a daily basis.

Over 30 million prescriptions are written each year in Britain, and it is calculated that one person in every 10 will require some form of treatment during their life.

One thing that must not be said on this complex issue is to suggest that depression and worry are sins.

Elijah’s experience ought to hold us back from such a rash and insensitive remarks.

The Bible nowhere makes that suggestion, nor does it support the matching mantra that all suffering is a result of sin.

Depression can result from many things - tiredness, loneliness or fear - and no glib answer will suffice to deal with a problem which takes many forms. Nevertheless, the advice which the great German theologian Adolf Von Harnack gave to a colleague might be helpful to some.

He wrote as follows:

‘I wish you would unlearn your fatal trick of turning every fruit tree that God sends into a weeping willow.

‘My own first wall against despondency is to say, ‘Lord, I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies’.

‘My second is not to take life too seriously, but with a pinch of humour.

‘My third is to remind myself that there are human beings to whom I matter, even if it is just one human being, one little child.

‘With these three walls you can shelter against a whole sea of storms, and keep that joyful courage which is the one essential ground of our existence.’