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26 January 2015

Tackling mental health stigma in churches

Tackling mental health stigma in churches

The UK’s largest Christian Disability Charity and largest Christian mental health information charity have joined forces to create a new resource to help churches tackle mental health stigma

Livability and Premier Mind and Soul have created a new resource to help churches better understand people with mental health needs in their congregations. The pack is set to be launched on Blue Monday, January 26th 2015 – said to be the most depressing day of the year.

The pack has been endorsed by a number of high profile Christian leaders and academics, including, among others, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, Nicky Gumbel- vicar at Holy Trinity Brompton and Andrew Sims, Past President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Leeds.

Livability and Premier Mind and Soul developed the mental health access pack in response to the growing demand from churches who want to better understand mental health issues but are uncertain where to start. The pack specifically aims to equip churches with relevant knowledge and tools incorporating theological, psychological and medical perspectives on mental health as well as signposting churches to other specialist external sources.

According to statistics, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue each year, with 11% of British women taking anti-depressant medication daily. Similarly, anecdotal evidence suggests that Christians with mental health needs have often found churches they attend are relatively ill-equipped to support them.

The pack includes contributions from a number of experts and covers a number of subjects including exploring common mental health conditions and addressing some of the common myths and misconceptions about mental health.  The pack also suggests ways that local churches can better support those struggling with poor mental health.

Katharine Welby-Roberts, an associate at Livability and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter who has spoken publicly regarding her struggles with depression, said: “From my own experience and others I have spoken with, churches do want to better support people with mental health problems but don’t know how to go about it. This can often lead to isolation or people leaving the church because they feel misunderstood or not catered for.  I believe the church is a key untapped local resource which can support people with mental health needs; this pack is a valuable and timely resource which will help churches to do mental health better.”

Will Van der Hart, Pastoral Chaplain at Holy Trinity Brompton, and a director of Premier Mind and Soul, who will feature on the BBC’s Songs of Praise to discuss the pack next month, said: “The Mental Health Access Pack responds to a critical need in the church today, not only from the congregants but also from church leaders. 20% of clergy sick leave each year is as a result of depressive illness and almost half (47%) of leaders from major protestant denominations admit to suffering from stress most of the time.”

“A person’s experience of mental illness within the church can be vastly improved through increasing understanding of common disorder and debunking some of the myths that are still prevalent in the Christian community; the Mental Health Access Pack seeks to do just that.”

“Many Christians are unaware of the depth of isolation experienced by those with mental health issues within their churches. Sadly it often feels safer to deny you have a problem that to expose yourself to the assumption that you have ‘little faith’ or are being spiritually ‘disobedient'.”