In the last couple of decades, a revolution is happening in the mental health field as we begin to integrate medical components into our program. It started with substance misuse treatment and quickly incorporated things such as an individual’s thyroid which can create anxiety and depressive symptoms or diet and exercise that can have significant positive impact with a person’s mood and relationships. One big integration that is still continuing to be explored, researched, and discussed is pain.
I have been on the hunt for a book that will help in creating a mental health ministry which helps to bridge the gap between the Church and professional counseling. Previously I’ve stated Amy Simpson’s Troubled Minds was the best book out there to make this connection (and at the heart of how a Christian family feels when someone struggles with mental illness, it still is the best). Then comes Steve Grcevich’s book “Mental Health and the Church,” which I will say has become the cornerstone for me in implementing a mental health inclusion ministry.
Note: I should say there is some bias with this review. I did attend Inclusion Fusion Live where we met, am personally in dialogue with him on upcoming creative ideas, and write monthly for his ministry. But that’s a testament to how good his content is.
A few months ago, Jeremy featured an article on ChurchMag covering some Christian streamers, of which I was included. He recently followed up and asked me to write something about what makes me different from the other streamers in that article. You see, I’m on the autism spectrum. I have Asperger’s syndrome. I was diagnosed in middle school, which raised its own challenges, along with being a teenager. It’s those experiences, though, that shaped me into who I am today. In learning to deal with ridicule both at school and church, I’ve grown to know the Lord better and, through His grace, show His love to the world.
Your church has made a revelation and decided that your ministry can make an impact in your community by addressing the issues concerning mental illness in your community. You’ve decided to head up this cause and while putting the pieces together will take time, strategy, and money, you want to get started right away.
Below I’ll be sharing some free ways your church can stop mental health stigma today so that when you do get a budget item, you can already show progress. Certainly, there are cheap options like the Church Mental Health Awareness Cards or social media marketing, but we will look into that in a future article.
In today’s society, anger is one emotion that is regularly not expressed well. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy notes there are typically three responses to anger which can all be unhealthy: fight, flight, or freeze. Further, with our digital era and social media, impulse control mixed with anger tends to lead to erratic and harmful words expressed. In most of these responses, communication breaks down quickly, feelings are hurt, and relationships become hurt or broken.
Anger disrupts family get-togethers that we are not allowed to discuss political or religious topics. Parents yell at six-year-olds for not doing a good enough job on the soccer field. It’s become a such a problem culturally that it is seriously impacting the development of our children and how they act in society.
Childhood disruptive behaviors such as anger outbursts and aggression are among the most frequent reasons for outpatient mental health referrals.“Behavioral Interventions for Anger, Irritability, and Aggression in Children and Adolescents.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
I’ve known about Joni and Friends for a while, though definitely not long enough. If you do not know anything about them, they are a Christian ministry which was started in 1979 based on the Luke 14:12-14 from Jesus which states:
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
If you are wanting to educate yourself or others via some great web videos, a resource we have discovered that is supported by organizations such as The National Alliance on Mental Illness and fully funded by organizations including the original nonprofit The Greater Houston Community Foundation. It is called MentalHealthChannel.tv. Their goal is to create free videos on mental health that highlight personal stories to enlighten, inspire, entertain, and educate.
No this is not a Christian organization. But imagine having a mental health support group or small group at your church and wanting to show a brief video about depression or crisis intervention. You will probably find it here and it’s highly produced.
Mental illness is not something that impacts only one’s emotional. It impacts an individual’s ability to think and be motivated, which can have a negative, domino effect on hygiene, physical health, work, school, and parenting performance, and ultimately a difficulty in accomplishing small goals as well. Severe mental illness can lead to a lack of progress towards life goals with relationships, career, and personal satisfaction.
(If you want to sign up for the weekly digital planner quickly, head to the bottom of the article.)
One of the biggest difference between counselors and pastors is the role they play within an individual’s life. Of course, the objectives are different as well. One serves a clinical, evidence-based, structured interaction with an individual.
But how do the different organizations and the roles professionals interacting with individuals change from counseling agency to the Church? How do we need to look at them with the right expectations?
If you don’t know, there is a really good application for mindfulness out there called Headspace. For those who like free, there is more than enough, but it has so much more than that. The idea behind Headspace is to help people to slow down, take a minute from the busyness of life, and reduce stress, improve relationships, as well as improve physical health.
These are a lot of great things for a clinical counselor who wants to help someone find coping skills for themselves (and all therapists should be aware and at least have practiced the techniques) but I think this also has an application for all Christians.