After struggling with mental health issues, both Dr Isana and Inna* experienced healing and found peace in Jesus Christ. Now, the SAT-7 PARS presenters seek to improve awareness of mental health issues in Tajikistan, and witness to God’s hope, through a new programme in the Tajik dialect of Persian.
“I have personally experienced clinical depression,” shares Dr Isana, presenter of the upcoming programme Mental and Spiritual Health. “I had no hope that I would recover. But God has turned that negative experience around for His own glory and purposes. My difficult times are now being used to help others who are dealing with mental health problems.”
Raising awareness, changing minds
The primary purpose of Mental and Spiritual Health is to bring attention to and raise awareness of mental health issues in Tajikistan. “It was a miracle that I was able to connect with a doctor and get the medicine I needed,” shares Dr Isana. “People don’t know how to recognise signs of depression.”
Even in the church context, she finds, people lack understanding and even consider people living with depression to simply have a “negative attitude”. “There is a huge stigma around mental health,” she continues. “People try to hide it, because they worry what people will think.”
“We want to help prevent suicides by raising awareness, by mentoring viewers through the stigma,” says Inna. Dr Isana adds, “We are researching all the available resources in Tajikistan that can help women with mental health problems receive the help they need. We can’t see mental pain like we can see a broken leg. But people with mental health issues need access to medicine, and they need to receive help.”
A crisis of hopelessness
Unfortunately, in Tajikistan, where there is very little awareness, many people do not receive the help they need to recover. “In the past months, during the pandemic, Tajik news has reported high numbers of deaths by suicide among women,” shares Dr Isana. There have also been cases, she adds, of mothers and their children dying by murder-suicide.
The pandemic has worsened existing issues that create hopelessness in Tajikistan. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the five-year civil war that followed have left its mark on Tajik society. Women have often been forced disproportionately to carry many of life’s burdens, including becoming breadwinners as well as single parents when men migrated to Russia in search of jobs, leaving their families behind. Abuse, polygamy, and strict societal control over their activities also affect women in Tajikistan.
Healing in Christ
“Jesus can change you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally,” adds Inna, who shares that she overcame suicidal thoughts while living with depression. “My brother killed himself, and my other brother has schizophrenia. I thought God was cruel and punishing my family. I used to take drugs and consulted fortune tellers.”
However, Inna continues, all this changed when she came to know Christ:
God completely changed me. He changed my job, my family, my attitude, and my life. Now, I want to share my testimony, to tell viewers about Jesus, who brings healing.”
- Pray for God’s hope and peace to fill people in Tajikistan who are affected by mental health problems, and ask Him to provide the support that is desperately needed.
- The series is yet to be filmed, as filming was planned for December but had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please pray that the travel restrictions will soon be lifted so that programme hosts can go to the IRR-TV studios in Finland during the spring.
- Ask that Mental and Spiritual Health will help raise awareness of mental health issues in Tajikistan and help dispel the stigma that can prevent access to help.
- Thank God for Dr Inna and Dr Isana, that He is using their experiences to help others and bring viewers to Jesus.