Shawn and I were in Belfast last weekend, speaking at a training day on depression run by a charity called The Big House, Ireland. We were deeply impressed by their vision and the passion with which they are pursuing it. Teens everywhere face particularly difficult issues, but in Ireland, the situation seems particularly grave. The charity’s founder and director, Angela Minion, told us some worrying statistics about rates of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, self harm, teen pregnancies, and suicide rates, perhaps no so suprising when 50% live in poverty, 14% of which is absolute poverty. The Big House is there to equip churches to respond to these desperate young people. They need the love of Jesus, and they need human hands to help them feel it.
The Big House currently runs training days on topics such as depression (my speciality!), self-harm, eating disorders and such, and also puts on residential weekends for teens. One of the ones coming up is called “Beatiful”, aimed at girls with low self-esteem or concerns about their appearance (all girls then?!). In six months time they will be ready to roll with a counselling service, having convinced a number of therapists to donate sessions. Their ultimate goal is to have a literal Big House, where their activities will be ongoing, and where young people can find sanctuary, sanity and the love of God.
When I was a depressed teenager, I felt (rightly or wrongly) that no one understood or cared about what I was going through. Looking out at a roomful of youth workers and church leaders who had given up a Saturday because of their deep concern for people struggling with this awful illness, I was almost moved to tears. I hope and pray that through them, many teens in darkness will see God’s light break through.