If you haven’t’ yet heard of Emma Scrivener, she is an absolute game-changer and passionate advocate of communicating about the Gospel in relation to mental health. I used her example and book as part of my A-Level Health and Social Care Coursework based on eating disorders and have loved her work and openness to talk on this issue.
Emma was born and raised in Northern Ireland, before studying for her degree at Oxford University. Since then she trained at Bible College, married her husband Glen and became a mother to her three-year old Ruby. Throughout much of her life she has battled with mental health problems, specifically anorexia, OCD and anxiety. However, she refuses to allow that to become her identity, and instead encourages her audience to turn to the one person who can bring us out of the darkness and into the light – Jesus.
Hi Emma, thanks so much for chatting to GGF today. Can you tell us a bit about your story so far?
Sure. So I grew up in Northern Ireland and had a very happy childhood until I hit 13 and I experienced some big changes. Suddenly, I had the sense of being out of control and so I developed an eating disorder as a means to cope with it. Although I received treatment, the problems didn’t just go away. My recovery was focused on fixing the outside; whereas Jesus looks into the heart. It was only an encounter with Him many years later when I could fully put my identity into God that I truly found myself.
That’s brilliant. So statistically, 1 in 4 of us will develop a mental health problem at some point in our lives, and therefore we will all have family or friends that are experiencing it, whether that be an eating disorder, depression, anxiety or OCD among many others. How best can we serve our loved ones throughout this time?
I think for me, the best thing is to keep pointing one another to Jesus. Encourage loved ones to be in church community and offer prayer and support through their struggles and hopes. If possible, encourage them to seek out mentorship from someone older and wiser – and don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Great advice. How best can we serve friends and family who may not be in church or a Christian?
Similarly whether they are a Christian or not, get alongside them in friendship and companionship. The most incredible thing you can do for them is to be their friend. Be someone that they can open up to without any fear of the consequences, someone safe and reassuring. As a result, they may be more receptive to hearing about the Gospel and the hope that we have in Jesus, but the first step is to simply be a friend to them.
So how would you best describe the link between the Gospel and mental health?
The greatest thing I have learned is that there is no ‘them and us’. In this sense, we are all broken and in so many different ways. There is nothing weird about having a mental health problem, there is help available and everyone uses various coping mechanisms. However, Jesus offers us a lifeline through real hope and that is what we have to trust in. We have a solid and a sound theology that teaches us on suffering; yet also a hope to lift us out of it.
I love that – thanks for drawing us back to the Gospel. Our GGF readers tend to be teenage girls, so what would be some life advice you wish you knew back in your own teenage years?
What would I say to younger Emma? I would say that you were made for a reason. You may not be able to understand it right now and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Know that your friends and the community all around you are all battling their own struggles – nothing is off limits. Be willing to open up and talk about your own vulnerabilities, it goes an amazingly long way. Know that Jesus loves and accepts you, just as you are. You are fully known, fully accepted and fully pleasing to God. Pursue Christ – that’s all that matters in the end.
Thanks so much for your speaking to us Emma!
If you wish to learn more about the Gospel and mental health or some more of Emma’s story, check out her blog.