Mental ill health is a critical feature that affects people within church life.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 people live with mental health conditions. This means that within our churches and communities we have a significant number of people for whom this is an issue, within congregations and the clergy. Many pastors and church leaders are unaware of the widespread perception in the broader culture that churches are not welcoming places for persons with mental illness.
A Baylor University study found three in ten attendees who sought help from their church for themselves or a family member for a mental health condition reported: “negative interactions” that were counterproductive to treatment and for 13% of those interviewed, their interaction resulted in the end of their involvement with their church.
There is a significant ‘overlap’ between these areas – people struggling with issues around poverty, disability, sexuality, gender, and ethnicity are also very likely to be living with some form of mental health condition.
Stephen Grcevich MD, author of Mental Health and the Church, suggests three reasons the church has neglected such a vast ministry opportunity –
- Mental illness is stigmatised in many of our churches in ways that other disabilities aren’t. The stigma may be greater in churches and denominations most inclined to pursue evangelism and outreach.
- The term “mental illness” is used to describe a vast range of conditions affecting thinking, perception, mood, emotions, and behaviour. The typical pastor or ministry leader may have some knowledge of the signs and symptoms of some conditions, but an in-depth understanding of how the attributes of common mental health disorders impact church participation or spiritual growth is extremely rare in my experience.
- We haven’t had a commonly accepted ministry model for mental health outreach and inclusion.
Resources for Mental Health Inclusivity
- Ten strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church https://church4everychild.org/ten-strategies-for-promoting-mental-health-inclusion-at-church/
- Why Your Church Needs a Mental Health Inclusion Strategy http://amysimpson.com/2018/05/guest-post-why-your-church-needs-a-mental-health-inclusion-strategy/
- A Mental Health Inclusion Strategy for the Church – podcast – https://influencemagazine.com/practice/a-mental-health-inclusion-strategy-for-the-church
- Evangelicals, You’re Wrong about Mental Illness http://amysimpson.com/2013/09/evangelicals-youre-wrong-about-mental-illness/
- Mental Health and the Church – A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions https://www.amazon.com/Mental-Health-Church-Including-Conditions/dp/031053481X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528843723&sr=8-1&keywords=Mental+Health+and+the+Church&dpID=5162jiwLepL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch
- Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission https://www.amazon.com/Troubled-Minds-Illness-Churchs-Mission/dp/0830843043/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1528843876&sr=1-1&keywords=9780830843046&dpID=51BnKmwfOBL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch
- Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness https://www.amazon.com/dp/0830845070/ref=sxbs_sxwds-stvpv2_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3233965245922079678&pd_rd_wg=A43sJ&pf_rd_r=HHXA4ZW4KRKEWBKM29Y6&pf_rd_s=desktop-sx-bottom-slot&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_i=0830845070&pd_rd_w=5YLH7&pf_rd_i=9780830843046&pd_rd_r=4d0ffc0b-5b3b-4a13-ae6d-fd746fb9488b&ie=UTF8&qid=1528843905&sr=1
- Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness https://www.amazon.com/dp/1587433729/ref=sxbs_sxwds-stvpv2_2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3233965245922079678&pd_rd_wg=A43sJ&pf_rd_r=HHXA4ZW4KRKEWBKM29Y6&pf_rd_s=desktop-sx-bottom-slot&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_i=1587433729&pd_rd_w=5YLH7&pf_rd_i=9780830843046&pd_rd_r=4d0ffc0b-5b3b-4a13-ae6d-fd746fb9488b&ie=UTF8&qid=1528843905&sr=2