In addition to the many unfortunate consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked our communities, one that came to the forefront is the effect it has on mental health. The immediate change in routines, job losses, shutdowns, sickness, death, and emotional lows took its toll. Many never saw it coming.
A Health Ministry should not exclude the mental well-being of its congregation. Leaders at places of worship often have more influence on its members and the neighboring community than many outside mental health providers. Health Ministers’ encouragement, community investment and overall understanding of its people gives them the space to also address mental wellness.
Health Ministries should be equipped to deal with youth and adult members of their community who live with a mental illness, addiction, or the effects of trauma. Often these issues are not addressed, possibly due to the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance abuse.
Including mental health, or creating a separate Mental Health Ministry, increases the capacity to support recovery and well-being. There are five steps Health Ministries can take to address mental wellness:
Start with identifying how the mental health stigma is promoted within your congregation. Are messages given that may bring condemnation or shame to those who may be experiencing a mental health challenge?
Congregations should assess the mental health needs of its congregation. This is an essential second step to gain an understanding of their own perception of mental illness and substance use disorders. A congregational assessment helps to determine the need for a mental health ministry and what training the community might need to increase their ability to provide support and care.
Increase the mental health literacy of the congregation and provide a basic understanding of various mental health challenges that may be encountered in the community.
Form a ministry focused specifically on mental health and wellness. This may include developing a local interfaith mental health training coalition, a congregational mental health committee, or a companionship care team to provide support for members performing outreach to those struggling with mental health or substance use challenges.
Ensure that the movement is sustained. Sustainability will differ between communities.
Every place of worship should do the following:
Make a commitment
Get leadership buy-in
Form a task force or ministry team
Decide what you want to accomplish
Define strategies to keep individuals involved
Make an inventory of available resources
Join with other organizations
Nurture your ministry
Incorporating mental health into your Health Ministry or creating a separate Mental Health Ministry is imperative given the rise in individuals who have mental challenges. By making a concerted effort, working within your congregation and the community, you can create an all-inclusive Health Ministry that serves everyone.
(Source: 5 Steps to Create a Mental Health Ministry, The Christian Citizen, April 14, 2020)