The Mental Health and Pastoral Care Institute at Anglican Deaconess Ministries has created a package of resources to help churches – and those in them – understand and respond well to mental illnesses in their midst.
Called 10/10 in acknowledgment of World Mental Health Day on October 10, the information is free and downloadable from the MHPCI website. It includes a range of prayers for people experiencing mental health problems and those seeking to support or care for them, options for church announcements or appropriate psalms of lament, plus further resources and reading.
What need does it address?
The Rev Keith Condie, who is co-director of the MHPCI and put together the material with his wife Sarah and staffers at ADM, says, “There’s a lot of great stuff out there that mental health professionals are doing, and we must work with them, but there are unique things that the church can offer. Even a lot of mental health professionals will say that: the community, the sense of meaning and purpose in life. The hope that the Christian faith offers is profound.”
10/10 also contains 10 short videos to help personalise the mental health picture for churches and individuals. Each video focuses on a different person – health professionals, church ministers, people struggling with mental health issues or their family members – and each offers insight into certain conditions, how to care well for those who suffer or how to respond in faith.
How can it equip parishes?
The Rev Mark Wormell, rector of St John’s, Glebe, speaks in his video about how the parish cares for locals with mental health problems.
Not only do staff and volunteers seek to be “alert to their needs”, he says, but “we really try to make St John’s a place where everyone in welcome – particularly welcome if they have mental health problems. So that often involves being very patient in listening to people as they describe their lives and the problems that they deal with – not trying to solve their problems, but really just trying to understand them.
“A very key part of the way that we manage things is to be a place where people make friends. We would love people – everyone – to know Jesus, but the way that we think is the best way to do that is to make friends first, whether it’s at our Sunday services or whether it’s through… our emergency relief program.”
"We would love people to know Jesus"
A real-life testimony
Claudia, who deals with severe depression and anxiety, describes in her video the burden of a “deep, overwhelming sadness in myself that I can’t explain”, in addition to feelings of shame she used to experience in hiding her illness from her family.
“My faith is everything,” she adds. “I honestly don’t believe I’d be here without it… Often there are lies in my head, and I think depression and anxiety does that, [but] I know that [God] has plans to prosper me and not harm me.”
"My faith is everything"
Adds Mr Condie: “When people hear about real experiences, it doesn’t make it so foreign – and it raises empathy. We’re just trying to encourage people to be there for others. You don’t have to be an expert but just listen, ask what it’s like and ‘Thank you for sharing’ and ‘What can I do?” Just little things but they can make a real difference for people.
“Even if this just nudges a few people in a more caring direction we think that’s really worthwhile.”
The 10/10 package is available at www.mentalhealthinstitute.org.au