In every community and every city there will be a church. For years the church has been a crucial part of the community. Moving into 2020 the church is still and important part of each city, town, and community.
It is often said that our churches are seven years behind the times. When it comes to mental health the church cannot afford to be left behind. Here are five things the church can do to increase mental health literacy in their congregations.
1) Use proper language
This is important especially from the church leadership. Be aware of using words like “crazy” “weird” or “odd” to describe mental health challenges. Though it may not be intentional, those words may invite shame into the hearts of people who relate to the actions or thoughts being described. Individuals dealing with mental illnesses may have been described as “crazy” or “odd”. Being labeled as crazy does not provide light on how someone can improve their situation or mental health. Use language that promotes mental health.
2) Create a supportive environment
Within any congregation there will be individuals who are dealing with some type of mental health challenge. One of the main reason’s members do not speak to their church leadership has to do with confidentiality. Many church members are concerned that their struggles will spread throughout the congregation. Dare I say church gossip? Church’s that create a supportive environment may open the door for their members to share their challenges. Creating a creative environment does not come without intentionality. How the church leadership systematically approach mental health concerns will speak louder than what is preached.
3) Become transparent
Talking about personal experiences regarding life stressors can help in removing the, “I have it all together” facade. When leadership and members discuss their personal battles and victories concerning mental health, it encourages others to seek help. Transparent congregations promote a sense of community. We all want a community where we can be ourselves in a non-judgmental environment. When I learn about your struggles it provides me the opportunity to share. Members sharing their struggles will lead to being able to identify how church members can better support each other, this leads back to a supportive environment.
4) Get training
If you want to increase your congregation’s mental health literacy it is imperative that you get accurate information. Leadership should intentionally invest into learning about mental health and symptoms of mental illness. The more knowledge obtained the better the congregation can be helped. Mental Health First Aid and ACE’s training can be conducted at little to no cost for churches.
5) Work with mental health professionals
You can have Jesus and a counselor. Although they may have the best intentions, church members sometimes say the wrong things and the wrong time. Mental health professionals have invested thousands of dollars and years of training in their field. Faith leaders can work alone side the right therapist/counselor to provide their congregation a very specific type of support. Faith and therapy are not at odds with each other, actually they are complementary. Invite a licensed counselor to your congregation to present on a given topic. Make sure to choose the right counselor for your congregation. The right counselor will have an understanding of your church’s culture and the ability to merge therapy alongside faith.
Licensed counselors are not there to make doctrinal decisions. Inviting a counselor to speak at small events can help in opening the door to having mental health conversations in your congregation.
If you or your congregation has an interest in better connecting faith and therapy, contact
Ben Roberts LPC-MHSP at Purposed Life. We have a passion for working with people of faith.
Phone :615-241-9020; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org