One of the bravest things I’ve witnessed inside a church is when my friend spoke up at a prayer meeting.
“I’d like us to pray for people with mental health issues. And I include myself in that number.”
It wasn’t easy to do, but in those few words she seemed to open a door for other people to begin speaking about where they, too, were experiencing mental health issues – either directly or with loved ones. And after all, if church isn’t a place where we can talk about our struggles in the hope that we will be listened to and cared for, what are we doing?
It’s common to feel uneasy when it comes to mental health, and that may be because it’s an ‘unknown’ to many of us. Mental health issues still carry stigma for some – and that’s without the thorny issue of whether there’s a spiritual element involved and how we should respond to that. So, it helps to equip ourselves. LifeLine Church has produced some mental health resources, and FaithAction has compiled tips for supporting mental health in the pandemic. There’s also the Mental Health Access Pack for churches from the Mind and Soul Foundation – all good places to start.
When we belong to and care about each other, we will pray for each other, of course – but there are also the practical things. Could you take some time to sit or walk with someone who needs some company? Do some cleaning for an exhausted family? Set up a quiet space where people can just ‘be’? Renew Wellbeing might be able to help here.
Perhaps you could even arrange some kind of forum to begin talking about the issues. As my friend found, it might just need one person to open the door. Could it be you?