Television Reviews

"Stranger Things" Aren't That Strange

"Stranger Things" Aren't That Strange

Stranger Things is a hit Netflix series that has swamped the nations. Whether you watch the popular series or not, Stranger Things reminds us that mental health is a rampant issue worldwide. Nevertheless, young adults are paralyzed by stigmas that make daily functioning difficult. If we want to kill our demagorgons, (a.k.a., anxiety), depression, ADHD, OCD, you name it, once and for all, we first need to realize that mental health problems can impact us all. 

This season, more than ever, highlights the gruesome terror mental health brings to adolescents. As a gateway between the sacred and the secular, I believe this show teaches three things about mental health:

1. Mental Health Crises Can Happen to Anyone

Regardless of what people think they know, mental health issues can and will affect any individual regardless of age, sex, or upbringing. The belief that these issues only happen to women or those prone to risk factors is mere misinformation. While women are often more likely than men to develop certain mental health issues, and those exposed to risk factors are more likely to face significant trauma, mental health issues can happen to anyone. 

A significant point within this idea is that Christians will not experience mental health issues because they are saved by Christ and have crucified their old selves, but this idea of an easy pass from mental anguish couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, Jesus Christ saved us, and our old sinful ways of living were crucified with Christ so that we could live in His freedom, but that does not exempt us from human suffering. Belonging to Jesus does not mean we will never face hard things. In fact, Scripture tells us we will often face more persecution and hardship because we believe in Him. Nevertheless, mental illnesses are part of the human experience. They result from living in a fallen world, and we need to accept that. 

Galatians 2:20 writes, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (NIV). But in Hebrews 4:15, we also read that our God is a sympathizing God. Jesus faced every trial, temptation, fear, and anxiety known to man not to make us feel weak, but to know that in our weaknesses we are made strong: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (ESV). And, "these things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NKJV). 

Once we acknowledge that mental health issues can happen to anyone, breaking that stigma allows us to accept that ignoring mental health issues is not the best way to cope. In fact, the more one ignores their problems, the more problematic they actually become. 

2. Ignoring Mental Health Problems Will Not Make Them Go Away

As much as I would like to say otherwise, ignoring mental health issues only allows their symptoms to fester and grow. In Stranger Things, for example, the more the town of Hawkins ignores the presence of demagorgons, the more incapable they are of fighting off the monster successfully.

18-25-year-olds across the nation are fighting Vecna’s and demagorgons of their own every single day. They are trapped inside their minds and left for dead unless someone helps them get out alive. As Christians, it is our call and responsibility to let those suffering from mental illness know that it is okay. It is okay to talk about mental health. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to break the perfect mold and talk about what you are going through.

In Galatians 6:2-5, Scripture explains this best when we are told to share one another's burdens so that we can fulfill the law of Christ. If we want to truly make a difference in the lives of those suffering mentally, we are called to listen to them. We are called to let them know they don't need to be afraid to share for fear of judgment, but that freedom comes by bringing life's dark places to the light. "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load" (Galatians 6:2-5, ESV). And "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2, KJV) 

By helping individuals to silence stigmas and reach out for help, we testify to a hurting world that we are not called to face or fight our problems alone. 

3. Mental Health Battles Are Not Meant to Be Fought Alone

In season 4 of Stranger Things, Max faces a head-on collision with her mental health. After watching the death of someone she loves, her trauma develops into full-swing depression, with a side of headaches, nosebleeds, and nightmares. 

Like many individuals struggling with their mental health, however, Max wants to be left alone. And while many, including her friends and school counselor, try to reach her, it is a perplexing issue to feel caught between this world and the one inside your mind. You want someone to help you, but at the same time, you feel so low and overwhelmed you don't. If we expect those suffering from mental health problems to make significant headway in their struggles, we have to be willing to help them fight. And as Christians, this not only includes leaning on a relationship with Jesus but equipping them with the right armor and walking with them along the way.

Ephesians 6:11-18 reminds us that every battle we face here on this earth is not against flesh and blood that we can see, but evil rulers of the underworld wishing to seek our destruction. Learning to take every thought captive and surrender it to Christ can only happen if we are wearing God's protective armor. And while we equip those in need with this battle garb, we must also remind them that we and the Lord will stand by their side until the white flag is raised. 

It is my prayer, that you will let this Scripture be your prayer today:

"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephesians 6:11-18, KJV). 

Agape, Amber

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Sergey Turkin

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a young adult writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic worship arts, and volunteer roles. She is enrolled in the YWW Author Conservatory to become a full-time author and is a featured writer for Crosswalk, ibelieve, Salem Web Network, The Rebelution, Daughter of Delight, Kallos, Anchored Passion, No Small Life, and Darling Magazine. In the past, she's also contributed to Called Christian Writers, Southern Ohio Today News, Ohio Christian University, and The Circleville Herald. Visit her website at amberginter.com.



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