These are things I would like to see in churches, things that would help me and, I think, others who are experiencing mental health difficulties. I will also point you to the excellent Mind and Soul listing of mental health friendly churches which has their draft ideas for what churches can do, and also the list of suggestions made by others.
- Statement of beliefs about mental illness, a document available in church/online which states how the church views mental ill-health. If you have something specifically saying that you don’t view the mentally ill as being sinful, lacking in faith, in need of a good shake etc it can be very encouraging if people are looking for a church that accepts them.
- More than Sundays. Having groups or activities throughout the week can be really helpful, if only that when I am acutely unwell, I am not working, and having something to get out of bed and go to during the week keeps me in community with other people.
- Acceptance. If I am behaving a bit strangely, have neglected to wash, am too depressed to make any sort of contribution to a service or group, the fact that you sit with me, that you accept me, is really valuable and much appreciated.
- Help in need. If you have a list of people to whom I can go for prayer, to talk about problems I am having, I would find that really useful. I would also find it useful to be able to email or text a prayer request, for if I cannot get out of the house, or am feeling too shy to talk to you.
- People to notice. I may not be able to come every week, but if there are people at the service who will ask after me, who will say hello when I come, who seem to care, really welcomes me into your church and makes me feel at home.
- Good listeners. People who consciously seek to listen carefully when others are speaking, rather than rushing in with advice – mentally ill people get a lot of advice from others, whether that be doctors or friends, and sometimes having someone just listen is lovely.
- No quick fixes. Mental health is a hard thing to achieve, and it may take a long time to ever be “fixed”, if ever. Understanding that I may never be normal, may constantly get ill again and again, without being frustrated with me, is key.
- Love. This is hard to prescribe but of course we need to love our neighbours – and our fellow church attenders, even if we can be rather unlovable when ill. Being kind, treating us with care, realising that we are hurting and trying our best, is important.
Those are a few of the key things I can think of. Some of the suggestions on the list from Mind and Soul that I liked as well were that leadership should be honest and vulnerable – not preaching and teaching as though they are superhuman, with no faults or problems. I also liked the idea of leaving seats free at the back of the church in case people need to slip in and out – I find it really intimidating going into a church for the first time and I often feel trapped in the middle of the room! They have some excellent suggestions there – and I’d love to hear other peoples’ suggestions!
- The Denial of Mental Illness is Alive and Well (ideas.time.com)
- Overcomers, Part Four: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Mental Illness (thehigherplaces.wordpress.com)
- Hamilton experts hope to keep mental health momentum going (cbc.ca)
- Mental Health Week 2012 (nouwennetwork1234.wordpress.com)
- Jesus Christ ‘May Have Suffered from Mental Health Problems’, Claims Church of England (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- My Mind was Lost. My Mind was Found: Some Thoughts on Grace and Gratitude (reinventingtheeventhorizon.wordpress.com)
- Open letter to Dr. Phil: “a public mental health menace” by Doug Mesner (mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com)
- How To Find A Good Mental Health Counselor (managingfear.wordpress.com)
- GHANA: Misery of “prayer camps” for mentally ill (irinnews.org)