Regarding Mental Health: How the Church Can Be Supportive

Amy Simpson’s article, “Supporting Families Living with Mental Illness,” resonates deeply with me. Her story speaks of a journey that many walk in silence – a journey with which I am all too familiar. I am ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), and while I do not currently serve in a pastoral position, I do have a ministry. My family’s journey with our child who is being treated for Bipolar Disorder has opened my eyes to the need for educating and equipping the local congregation to care for others walking our journey.

Recently, I had the privilege of leading a workshop at the ECC Central Conference Women’s Spring Celebration for women with children affected by mental illness or other challenges. The fact that the room was packed spoke volumes. That room became a place of refuge and belonging. Common experiences shared included isolation, exhaustion, and the need for community – specifically for Christian community. Simpson’s call to action to the church to support families affected by mental illness matches my own experiences as a parent and as part of the body of Christ. I offer here some practical suggestions for how the local church can support families struggling with mental illness.

  • Offer compassion. During any given Sunday morning, the parents are faced with no shortage of awkward situations involving the affected individual, from physical and emotional confrontations to withdrawal. For parents of children struggling in the areas of mental health, engagement in a public venue brings a cringe factor along with a host of questions. How will other children be affected if my child utters a socially inappropriatecomment? Will I be judged about my parenting skills? How will others perceive my child or sibling? Simple explanations to others (while being sensitive to confidentiality), modeling unconditional love, and communicating with the parents/family go a long way.


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