Tackling the Growing Challenge of Mental Health in the Church

A growing number of ministry personnel struggle with mental illness in our church. In fact, mental illness is the primary source of claims to both the church’s restorative care and long-term disability plans. These rates are well above levels in other “helping professions.”

This is worrisome because we yearn for flourishing ministry leadership. In addition, members also struggle with their mental health, and ministers may be their first line of support.

The Festival of Faith, which kicks off the 43rd General Council, is hosting a workshop entitled,  Mental Health Awareness in the United Church (see details at the end of this story).

It will help participants understand the impact of a mental illness, and develop strategies for helping themselves, or others. It will also provide participants with data about the vitality and resilience of our ministry personnel, as well as any challenges relating to mental health.

Participants will share some best practices on how their communities of faith are developing ministries focused on mental health. They will also come away with new perspectives on how the Christian story intersects with mental health.

This mental health workshop will be presented by Morneau Shepell and Rev. Adam Hanley, Program Coordinator for Ministry Personnel Vitality at the General Council Office. Here, Rev. Hanley answers a few questions about the workshop.

What information will participants take away?

People will take home information that will help them shatter popular myths and misconceptions. The information in the workshop will help increase their understanding of the causes and symptoms of mental illness. Participants will learn not to be afraid to ask for help and [will be given] some ideas of where to seek assistance. 

How will this workshop tackle the stigma that still surrounds mental illness?

By offering this workshop, we are working to tackle stigma in the church. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about mental illness in the church. The workshop will raise awareness of the prevalence of mental illness in Canada, and among ministry personnel in the church. It will also address stigma as we theologically reflect on the realities of mental illness.

What does our faith say about mental illness?

The stories of Jesus healing people by driving out demons can be problematic if we make assumptions in relation to mental illness. However, if we look to these healing stories with a broader perspective, they inform us as we seek to reduce shame and stigma related to mental illness. Jesus fought against the stigma of his own society, being present with those who were marginalized in society. In the healing stories, Jesus offers love and transformation to people who are stigmatized.

The words of Paul in his letter to the Romans offers reassurance that nothing, including mental illness, will be able to separate us from God’s love. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Mental Health Awareness in the United Church
Date: Saturday, July 21, 2018
Time: 2-3pm
Location: GC43, Oshawa, ON. (Room to be determined)

Visit the Festival of Faith online for workshop details.