In many churches, May is a time to recognize confirmations and graduations, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. But why not also recognize in the church that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? What a great opportunity for the church to speak up about mental wellness and reduce the stigma around mental illness. But what can a church do? Here are two suggestions: awareness and acknowledgement.
One in five people live with the effects of mental illness. That means, one in five people in our churches. Likewise, more people will experience issues related to their mental health than people living with heart disease, cancer, or diabetes combined. So, you can begin by being aware of mental health issues. There is excellent information available from nationally recognized resources like:
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Look Up Indiana
In a survey conducted by LifeWay Research a few years ago, the question was asked, “Do you want your church to talk openly about mental illness, so the topic will not be taboo?” For people who have a family member living with mental illness, 65% said “Yes.” For people themselves who are living with a mental illness, 59% said “Yes.”
The way a church responds to mental health can look different from church to church. However, each church can provide both awareness and acknowledgement of mental health issues in worship by praying for a member’s mental health (you don’t have to speak the person’s name), including a litany in the order of service (depending on your church’s style of worship) that acknowledges mental health issues, preach on a Scripture text where the reality of mental health issues is addressed (e.g. one of the Psalms of lament, I Kings 19, a portion of the book of Job), etc. To assist with the development of worship resources to help acknowledge mental health in the month of May, check out the following:
- Mental Health Ministries
- Pathways to Promise
- United Church of Christ Mental Health Network
- National Catholic Partnership on Disability
- ELCA Mental Health Ministries
- United Methodist Church Mental Health Ministries
- Worship Resources from Nouwen Network for Mental Health
These, and other resources like them, can be used by across denominations by simply making adaptions in language, etc. to fit your church’s theology, setting or culture.
After Rick and Kay Warren’s son, Matthew, died by suicide in 2013, the Warrens acknowledged that Matthew struggled for years with severe mental illness. However, as a family they weren’t always willing to talk about it. But after he died, they realized there is no shame in admitting he had an illness, a mental illness. Kay says, “No one should ever have to whisper anything about their lives in the church. Of all places, this is where we must be welcoming and embracing.” What Kay encourages is for the church to speak up about mental health issues. The resources above can assist in planning a mental health awareness for your church in May.
Written by The Reverend Dr. Dennis Goff, Director of Ministry Programs, The Lutheran Foundation.
Save The Date!
What Kay Warren encourages is for the church to speak up about mental health issues. The Lutheran Foundation will sponsor a church and mental health conference on Monday, October 7, 2019 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We are pleased to announce Kay Warren will be a featured speaker. Come and join us as we learn to speak up for mental health and silence the stigma of mental illness.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress, please reach out to a mental health professional or get confidential, free support and text LOOKUP to 494949 or chat online here.
If you live in Indiana and need help finding a behavioral health provider, visit Find Help or call (800) 284-8439.
Start the conversation. Silence the Stigma.