Bishop TD Jakes talks mental health: ‘We were not created to be alone’

Bishop T.D. Jakes, founding pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, speaks on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
Bishop T.D. Jakes, founding pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, speaks on Sunday, June 28, 2015. | Screenshot: The Potter's House

One reason why the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice are taking a toll on people’s mental illness is that “we were not created to be alone,” said megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes in a virtual conversation with Chirlane McCray, writer and activist and the wife of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Friendship is so important to have the ability to develop relational skills with people to whom we don’t have responsibilities,” Jakes told McCray in a recent online conversation.

This is because, he explained, “when you have relationships only with people who have expectations from you, sometimes their expectation of you is part of the weight that’s on you.”

He continued, “But when you’re in a friendship relationship where there is no expectation on you, you don’t have to worry about, you know … the mortgage is behind ... We’re just friends, so I can just call you up and just have a meltdown and it really doesn’t matter, it’s going to be OK.”

“And then, by the same token, give them that same freedom to be able to access you and we can be our brother’s keeper.”

The answer to the question if I am my brother’s keeper “has to be ‘yes.’”

“We have to assume the responsibility of looking across the office. And the person who seems out of sorts today, … stop by and say, ‘You seem kind of stressed out today. Are you OK?’ Or ‘I brought you a cupcake this morning.’ You know, just some simple and fun. And creating an environment where people can have relationships.”

“We were not created to be alone. We were not created to be alone whether you take that from a theological perspective or whether you take it from a biological perspective. We are not a species that does well in isolation. When you look at the criminal justice system, isolation is a form of punishment used in prison. That’s right, so you know this isolation is detrimental; physiologically, the brain shrinks. When left alone, longtime memories fade, the ability to remember our cognitive skills diminishes.”

All of that affects us, he underlined. “God Himself said, ‘It’s not good for men to be alone.’”

Jakes said statistics also show that “even if you have a dog, a puppy, a kitten, a cat, people live longer.”

As much as 35% of U.S. workers have battled depressive symptoms amid the pandemic but few have been seeking professional help, a recent study published by the Society for Human Resource Management found.

The study, Navigating COVID-19: Impact of The Pandemic on Mental Health, found that 22–35% of employees reported experiencing symptoms of depression often, and as many as two in three reported experiencing depressive symptoms at least sometimes.

And to deal with their depression-related symptoms, more than half of these workers, 60%, reached out to a family member or friend (42%), a colleague (11%) or a mental health professional (7%) for help. Nearly 40% of employees reported doing nothing to cope with their depression-related symptoms.

Mental Health Disorders Related to COVID-19–Related Deaths published in The Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this month warned about a possible second wave of devastation stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic, including soaring suicides and drug overdoses due to the declining mental health of communities.

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