Ten top tips for supporting people with mental health problems: #4

28 May 2015 2 minute read

While it is true that there are aspects of caring for people with mental health problems that are best left to qualified professionals, there are are also things that health care providers will always struggle with. One such thing is being able to include people in a social grouping that reduces, rather than reinforces, stigma.

Many people with mental health problems report that when things happen that make it clear that they are, or have been, unwell (such as admissions to hospital) it can make it difficult to integrate with those who have not shared the same experiences because the stigma involved can lead to a lack of confidence that they will be welcomed and included. People with mental illnesses are often isolated and marginalised, yet being within a supportive and caring community has been shown to improve mental wellbeing and to lower susceptibility to mental health problems. The very thing that is often denied to people in such circumstances is the very thing that could play a crucial role in their ongoing recovery.

We believe that church communities are ideally placed to be this nurturing environment. Although people with such issues can sometimes need lots of time and energy, they can also be equal community members, adding a unique perspective and helping to support others. Read this description of a Christian community. Does it describe your church?

Although it is important to think about boundaries, it is also important to recognise that we all have problems at one time or another, and we can use our experiences during these times to help one another, mutually building each other up. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that many people with long-term mental health problems are no more in need of help most of the time than those of us who have never had these problems in any significant way. They will often be a great resource for our communities as they offer their unique perspective on life.

It might be helpful to speak with your church leadership about how often mental health issues are mentioned by them as being a part of Christian living. How often are they mentioned in the sermon? Speaking about them can have a massive effect in reducing stigma and increasing the sense of welcome within the church community.