Strong men struggle too.
Azfaar* is 45. Married and a father of four, he used to own his own small business. His wife describes how he used to be such an active and social person.
Then, the small shop which he used to run failed. He couldn’t find work and, desperate for a way to provide for his family, moved them to Iran to try there. Working conditions were difficult though, and the family returned to Afghanistan.
Poverty and some other challenging family situations combined began to feel overwhelming for Azfaar. He became depressed and started to avoid others completely.
‘Azfaar was afraid of being in the community or at social gatherings,’ says his wife. ‘He did not like to go to relatives’ houses or parties. He didn’t like to speak with anyone...’.
At that time, Azfaar says he felt that life was meaningless. That he was not useful for his family, or even for himself. He felt as though he always wanted to be alone and face no one.
‘Many times, he wanted to kill himself,’ says his wife, ‘but we prevented him.’
Hope and a future
Mohammad*, a clinical psychologist working at our partner’s mental health programme, remembers the first time he met Azfaar. ‘He was visibly upset, and his voice, hands and feet were trembling,’ says Mohammad. ‘He had one of [our] brochures about anxiety in his hand and he told me that he had all the problems written in the brochure.’
Through counselling sessions, Azfaar says that he is now experiencing a new phase of life, without social anxiety. Also, with help from the programme and a loan from some relatives and neighbours, he has been able to restart his small shop.
Azfaar says he is happy because he has new hope for the future. ‘I tell everyone who may have a mental health struggle to go to this centre for the mental health services because having a mental health problem is not shameful,’ he says. ‘I tell them my own experience – that I now see that... mental health problems are curable.’
As we follow Jesus where the need is greatest and share his love, we know that in him there is always hope. Whether it feels or looks like it or not. His love and peace are beyond context or understanding. As with any other illness or injury though, we don’t dismiss treatment just because we know that God can heal. Instead, we work, in love, to be his listening ear and supportive arms and to see hope and restoration where there is despair.
A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.