Mental health stigma is culturally a huge problem. Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage.
It limits people’s motivation to engage in the treatment, getting the help they need, but also in the activities they are currently involved in, like church. Further, it can actually cause some mental health symptoms to create further harm and isolation.
The way you fight against mental health stigma is educating yourself and others as well as create a culture open to dialogue and not shaming or guilting others who you feel are different.
Mental Health Stigma In Church
Mental health stigma is not exempt from churches, in fact, many churches have created extreme stigmas in their community with mental health. We need to address this.
How many times have you heard “you’re crazy” when someone is acting silly, are told to “just pray harder” when you struggle with depression from losing a loved one six months after they passed, or accused of not trusting God enough when you have anxiety and trauma symptoms due to an unreported rape? Even more so our churches often have unwritten rules about who’s allowed in and who we would rather not be troubled by.
I love the questions posted by Dr. Steve Grcevich in his book Mental Health and the Church that talks in part on stigma:
How would you react if you came to church seeking truth, encouragement, and hope only to hear that your child’s behavior problems result from your insufficient care and that the medication you agreed to reluctantly, at the urging of your child’s physician, will cause your child’s physician, will cause your child long-term harm? Would you come back?Mental Health and the Church, page 62.
What if you don’t have a child who has problem behaviors but you hear a message like that at church? How likely are you to invite a friend, neighbor, or coworker to church if you know their child has issues with self-control? Not very likely, I’d guess?
So how can churches combat this?
Mental Health Awareness Cards
I created these mental health awareness cards specifically to fight stigma within the church. The hope is that you can have these in the lobby of your church, in the office area for pastors to have immediate access or the volunteer green room to have them share.
These are designed to be quickly informative and motivating as well as at the bottom giveaway the individual reading it can tear off a perforated card to request more information, prayer, or to volunteer with your mental health team.
Right now, we have seven mental health awareness cards to offer. We have a limited initial stock, so it will be first-come, first-served. This is a beta project, so we are not charging to cover the overhead of designing and marketing these cards. Further, shipping costs vary and nothing is automated at this time, so we will work with you individually. Give us feedback on what you the church leaders think about the product. What do you like, what needs to be changed, what opinions do you have?