- Talk About It
Start with the preaching from the pulpit (that’s you, pastors!) Include stories about those who have personally experienced mental illness as testimonies, to how they have experienced hope and healing in practical mental health treatment and results. Normalize its reality from the pastor’s perspective. Have a guest subject matter expert or success story from a church member who’s managed their illness to come in and speak to the congregation on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Hold a panel discussion inviting multiple field experts and host a talk on what the church can do to help those with mental illness. Make these events open to the church and the community.
2. Learn About It
If you are church leadership, look into material on mental illness and ways the church can help. Read books like Mental Health and the Church, Grace for the Afflicted, Troubled Minds, and Fresh Hope. Make these resources available and recommended for your ministry leaders to read and learn from. Invite a guest speaker to teach on it for a church leadership program or open it up to the congregation and invite the outside community for a conference.
3. Hold a Support Group
There are support groups like Fresh Hope for Mental Health, and Grace Alliance that can help your congregation and church members who struggle. The groups are usually member-initiated, pastor-approved, and peer-led. That means the ones facilitating must have a diagnosis and be maintaining a healthy functioning lifestyle. The support group curriculums are provided in the programs. If you are going to start your own group without a pre-existing organization’s curriculum program, research those that have done this before like Dr. Stanford’s, Dr. Grcevich’s, and Tony Roberts’ ministries found in this post on BipolarBrave.com.
4. Advertise and Share about the Success of the Group
Make sure your congregation and community find out about the group and you have the resources to advertise and spread the word. You might advertise by investing in Facebook ads, a vinyl banner in front of the church, a blurb in the Sunday bulletin, an ad in the local newspaper, and through your denomination’s communications/newsletter. Get the word out.
5. Love and Support Each Other Practically
Be the hands and feet of Jesus and personally get to know other people who have mental illness. Form friendships, cultivate relationships, forgive when necessary, come alongside for practical needs when there are barriers to care. Practical ways you can help may range from providing transportation to medical appointments or hospitals, to a meal train for the family while a loved one with a diagnosis is away, to sending the member a card in the hospital, to sitting with and praying for them, and listening. These may seem like minor ways, but to the ones struggling, they make a huge difference.
Katie Dale is the mind behind BipolarBrave.com and GAMEPLAN: Mental Health Resource Guide. She anticipates the release of her first book, a memoir of her psych hospitalizations entitled But Deliver Me from Crazy, due March 2020. She enjoys her long runs and long naps to keep her bipolar in remission and resides in central Missouri with her husband and cat. You can follow her activity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.