Being part of a healthy church community means looking out for each other’s wellbeing – whether this is physical, spiritual, or mental.
Mental illness is on the rise with one in four people experiencing a diagnosable mental health problem of some kind each year in England. However, approximately only one in three adults with a common mental health problem are receiving treatment.
So, how can church communities be supportive and welcoming places for those struggling with their mental health? We look at five different ways.
Talk about mental health
In the past mental health has often been viewed as a taboo subject with people suffering from mental health difficulties stigmatized by society. In recent years a lot has changed, and mental health is being talked about more widely – in the media, by celebrities, in workplaces and in community groups. Talking leads to destigmatizing and helping people get the support that they need.
There are many ways to talk about mental health – as part of a sermon, in a small group discussion or part of a conversation after the service. By talking about mental health, you are making people aware that your church is a safe place to be if they are struggling.
Listen to people
Alongside talking is listening. Listen to people who have mental health difficulties and find out how they are feeling and how they would like the church community to support them.
Many people in church communities lead very busy lives with a lot of stress. People in church leadership are often juggling different responsibilities and this can lead to burnout. It is important to carve out time each week for complete rest, with longer periods throughout the year. Church communities can help each other rest by sharing responsibilities to allow people to take some time out.
People like to rest in different ways – some people prefer to be alone whilst others find they need the company of others to help them switch off. Perhaps consider inviting someone to go for a walk or play a game with you to give you both a chance to connect and relax.
Start a wellbeing café
Wellbeing cafés are free and designed to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing and combat feelings of loneliness. Many churches host wellbeing cafés for a couple of hours a week where they provide free hot drinks, refreshments and a place for people to come and be themselves. Prayer ministry can be an optional part of a wellbeing café.
Signpost people to support services
If you notice someone’s mental health is affecting their daily life, they probably need further support. You can recommend that they talk to their GP, NHS 111 or refer themselves to their local IAPT service (Improving Access to Psychological Service Therapies).
If they need more urgent support, they can call Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact Shout. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is another option for people who are feeling down. Their phone lines are open daily from 5pm – midnight on 0800585858. If they are in immediate danger call 999.
There are some dedicated support services for young people. Papyrus is for under 35s who feel that life is not worth living anymore. Their helpline is open from 9am to midnight every day. Call 0800 068 4141 or text 07860 039967. Childline is also available for under 19s on 0800 1111. Mind have detailed information and support services for parents and carers supporting a young person.
The Hub of Hope is a national database that brings together local mental help services and will be able to point you towards support in your area.