Tuesday, May 31, 2011

People with mental health problems...in OUR church

It's likely there'll be people with mental disabilities, or mental health problems in your congregation. You may be dealing with them and their situation with compassion and concern. But what if you don't know how to help them, even in the most basic ways? (My own church has a particular ministry towards people with mental health issues, but there's a very small percentage of the congregation who are actually involved with the group who come to church.)

In an article that appeared in the Leadership Journal online,
Through a Glass, Darkly:
Ministry to the mentally ill, Amy Simpson talks about her own experience as a teenager with a mother who was mentally unwell, and how she has learned what things pastors and congregations need to know to help not only those with the mental health problem, but also their families and friends. For instance here's what she has to say about pastors trying to assist:

"Sometimes clergy distance themselves from people with mental illness because they realize the problem can be long term. To become involved with this person may mean a lengthy commitment. Perhaps this person will never be cured. Such a problem is contrary to contemporary Western ideas of being in control of one's life and destiny. People in modern day America expect to find a rational solution to any problem. And yet, in this case, there may be no solution. It is tempting, if an answer is not apparent, to avoid the person for whom one has no answers."

Simpson also looks briefly at the theological issues, and at the problems of overspiritualisation of mental health issues. This is quite a long article, but it's full of good insights, and practical suggestions.

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