Mental Health Ministry
ST. PAUL MENTAL HEALTH MINISTRY
Our mental health ministry team wants you to know that we are here to support you if you are living with a mental illness or have a family member or friend with mental illness. We also are working to educate everyone on mental health issues to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
There is a support group that meets in the Prisca room the second Monday of each month from 6:30-8 pm. Please join us whenever you want.
We also have developed a mental health library on the bookshelves outside Pastor Williamson’s office. There are a variety of pamphlets you can take with you and a few books to check out. We have plans to add to our library collection.
Our pastoral staff, youth and education staff and several lay members received the Mental Health First Aid training this winter.
Please do not hesitate to connect with our professional staff if you have a concern about yourself or someone you care for. You will be met with support, compassion and help finding local healthcare and other resources.
WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE TO MENTAL ILLNESS BE?
A summary of the ELCA Social Statement on Mental Illness
Despite how common its occurrence, mental illness is marked by loneliness and isolation and historically associated with attempts to shame and blame. For every person living and suffering with mental illness, an ever-widening circle of family and friends, coworkers and church members feels the sorrow and despair occasioned by mental illness.
In biblical times, symptoms of what we now call serious mental illness would mostly have been attributed to demonic possession. Illness was frequently associated with moral failings or sinful behavior. Many still believe sufferers just need to think positive or work harder to snap out of it when what they really need is treatment and therapy.
The presence of mental illness does not indicate sin particular to the person who is ill or that one person is more sinful than another, or closed off to the possibility of grace, is weak, or lacks faith. Mental illness is the result of a complex integration of factors, including inherited traits, biological factors, life experience and brain chemistry.
The church bears responsibility for sorrowful acts, for turning away and shaming people suffering from mental illness and isolating them and their families. The church can also rejoice in its inspired service to the neighbor, through professional and attentive pastoral and congregational care, health care systems and social ministry organizations, and chaplaincy.
Jesus' ministry was one of total acceptance and love. As the church, we emulate Jesus' love and way of life as we care for those people living with and affected by mental illness and brain disorders. All of God's people must embody Jesus' example of total love and acceptance of those who are living with mental illness and brain disorders and also of their families.
When Jesus heals the man possessed by demons, the man who was chained and living outside of his community does not simply become a member of a new group of people once his mental illness has been addressed. He is sent by Jesus to return as a full member of his own community, a witness to the power of healing to re-integrate and restore human dignity.
Perhaps the most important thing the church can do is to answer its call to be the body of Christ. Offering friendship and communal support to the families of those who are living with mental illness can lighten the enormous burden of caregiving. The church can also be a supportive community for providers of mental health care. Providers bear the burdens of people suffering from mental illness on behalf of all. In return, the church community can recognize and honor the importance of what they do, reinforce that.
To people who are experiencing mental illness, physical, prayerful companionship can be a sign of God’s presence in a time when God’s presence cannot be felt any other way. For caregivers and families, offers of help and presence are a tangible sign that they are still a part of the body of Christ. Acts which signify God’s presence can transform suffering. Suffering remains, and yet by entering into it for the sake of companionship and accompaniment, answering baptismal vocation in the name of Christ, Christians change the form and meaning of suffering. Through a Christian community acting as the body of Christ, the isolation and alienation of mental illness can be eased.
To read the full statement, CLICK HERE