Who do you call if you are ready for dinner and you are too tired to cook? You would call your favorite take-out restaurant or delivery service.
Who do you call if there is a fire? The fire department.
Who do you call if your car breaks down? Your roadside assistance plan.
Those questions are easy to answer. Now, for a more sensitive question:
Who do you call when you have a mental health issue? The church. Yes, that’s right. Several studies show that the church is the first place that many people call when they are struggling with mental health.
Mental health can be an illness that requires medical help and treatment, but it also requires caring for the soul. That is exactly how the church can help.
What Can Your Church Do
Here are some ways that any church can help. It doesn’t matter how big or small your church is. These are ways that you can care for those suffering from mental health issues in a meaningful way.
- Don’t shy away from mentioning mental illness in sermons.
- Pray for those with mental illness and their families during your services.
- Reach out to those experiencing mental illness by taking a meal, sending an encouraging text or email, making a phone call, or going out for coffee, a walk, or a meal.
- Provide a list of mental health resources to your church members. Make sure that everyone knows where and when to get help.
Churches are a place of refuge. Churches are a spiritual family. The church’s role can be to walk alongside someone suffering from mental illness. There is hope.
Educate Yourself and Your Congregation
Oftentimes there is a stigma that surrounds mental health. It keeps many people from talking about it, so there may be some confusion around this subject.
One of the best things you can do is learn about mental health and help educate your congregation.
It is important that you and your congregation are able to understand and recognize the symptoms of mental illness. The Mayo Clinic describes mental illness as, “a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.”
You can always ask a specialized expert in this field to come and speak during a service. This way you and your congregation can get the best up-to-date information.
Love and support go a long way. You can help provide useful resources for people who are dealing with a mental health crisis.
Compile a list of resources like this to share with others:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (phone number 1-800-273-8255)
- The Crisis Text Line (text “HELLO” to 741741)
- The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
You should also consider buying books or study materials to keep on hand whenever the need arises. You can also put these in your church library. Having these resources around will help encourage anyone that may be struggling with mental illness and show that you and your church care for them.
Mental illness often brings an intense feeling of loneliness not just for the one who is suffering from it, but also their friends and family.
You and your church should feel like a safe haven for these people. Encourage your church to build one another up. Encourage them to be there for those who are struggling. Patience and kindness go a long way.
Here are some practical ways that you and your church can take care and encourage those with mental health problems:
- Share a meal or take a food basket to them.
- Financially assist someone if they cannot afford to pay their bills/medical treatments.
- Share the burden of everyday tasks. Go grocery shopping for them, pick up their children, help drive them places.
- Just be there for them as a friend. Listen and pray with them.
Kay Warren, author, international speaker, Bible teacher, and mental health advocate, shares five life-transforming Biblical truths that help combat negative thoughts:
- You are loved. – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
- You have a purpose. – For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16
- You belong. – For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5
- You have a choice. – I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
- You are needed. – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Share each of these truths with someone who is struggling. These will help remind them of God’s truths and combat negative thoughts. With encouragement from the church and the power of the Lord people’s lives can change and move toward hope.