May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Guest Post from EMIN
Editor's Note: This is a guest blog from the Rev. 'Bean' Murray, coordinator of Episcopal Mental Illness Network.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a good opportunity to remember that all of our congregations have members facing mental illness issues whether they have a diagnosed disorder, have a family member with a disorder, or are a caregiver. It is estimated that at any given time, one fourth of the people in our pews are facing such issues.
Questions to Ask
This month can be a time to take stock of how well our congregations are welcoming to people with a mental illness:
- Do we ever have adult forum offerings about mental health and serious mental illness?
- Does the subject of mental illness ever come up from the pulpit?
- Would a person facing a mental illness feel comfortable bringing a mental health issue to our clergy?
- Does the church library have any books about mental illness and questions of faith?
- If they contact the church for assistance, do we treat families facing serious mental illness issues the way we would any other family by offering pastoral care visits, bringing the Eucharist, or offering to bring meals or run errands?
- Do our members feel that they have to keep mental illness issues secret?
The Episcopal Mental Illness Network (EMIN) wants to help our congregations to be welcoming to people with serious mental illnesses and to their families and friends. Stigma is an added burden to our members. Most congregations share the same stereotypes as the society at large, and that often can keep people with serious mental illnesses from fully participating in our faith communities.
Resources for Fighting Stigma
One way to help fight stigma is to start a mental illness ministry whose mission is to help educate the congregation about the nature of mental illness and about the resources in the community that are available to help. EMIN’s website, http://www.eminnews.org, has suggestions on how to start such a ministry and a tool for assessing how welcoming your church is today.
Some other good resources for making our congregations more welcoming are Mental Health Ministries and Pathways to Promise. The National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America have valuable information for consumers and advocates. [Ed. note: NEHM has included these in our resources tagged mental health; see blogs and social media in our Media section.]
EMIN produces an electronic newsletter twice a year that features what congregations around the country are doing to address the issues of mental illness and communities of faith. If you want to share information about a program that our readers might find interesting or if you want to sign up for the “EMIN News,” you can send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.