Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week
It was National Mental Health Awareness Week last week, an initiative started by the Mental Health Foundation in 2000 to raise public awareness of mental health and wellbeing. It is a commonly known fact that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue each year. Similarly according to the World Health Organisation, depression- a common mental health is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.
This is a similar picture in the church; however they are not always well equipped to deal with the needs of those who experience mental health conditions within their congregations. According to evidence, Christians with mental health needs have found that the churches they attend are relatively ill equipped to support them. Similarly, findings of a recent survey also revealed 20% of clergy sick leave each year is as a result of depressive illness and almost half (47%) of leaders from major protestant denominations admit to suffering from stress most of the time. 
The need to tackle this crisis in the church was also echoed by a number of high profile church leaders and Christian organisations in a joint letter to the Telegraph earlier this year calling on churches nationwide ‘to redouble its efforts to better support people with mental health needs.’
To address this critical need, Livability teamed up with Premier Mind and Soul to produce the Mental Health Access Pack designed to increase mental health literacy within the Church. The pack was launched in January on Blue Monday- supposedly the most depressing day of the year.
To celebrate mental health awareness week Livability interviewed Viv Wade – a mental health campaigner, blogger and a member of Light Church in Bradford, on the important role she believes the church can play in supporting people with mental health conditions.
- Why do you think it is important for churches to address the issue of mental health? Is this a need you have recognised in your own church?
I think it is important for churches to address the issue of mental health in their congregations because there are many people in church who will have a mental health issue at some point in their lives; being a Christian does not make you immune to that. I have had a major journey of my own and have had the privilege to share my testimony on many occasions. Each time I have shared my story there has always been an overwhelming response from people who have had similar experiences. I am a firm believer in being open and think this is the only way to combat stigma.
- Do you think churches are adequately resourced to support people with mental health needs in their congregation?
I can’t speak for churches as a whole but at the church where I attend- I approached the leadership team to set up a support group for people with mental health issues and they were very supportive. Our ‘peace of mind’ group meets every few weeks to have coffee and a chat and although it is still early stages (six months since it began) it is steadily growing.
Generally speaking I think it would be great to see more resources available; for example, mental health awareness training for those in pastoral roles. I think the mental health access pack is fantastic. I particularly like that it sets out all the different conditions really clearly. I hope to be able to use one of the template sermons for one of our evening services in the near future.
- What more do you think churches could do to support people with mental health needs?
This relates to the earlier point about sharing my personal journey re. Experiencing poor mental health, but I would really welcome church leaders and pastors sharing their own experiences / struggles with mental health. Vulnerability is key and I think the more open we all are – including church leaders and pastors- the better it is for everyone.
For more information mental health and how to support people with mental health needs within a church context visit:
- Mental health access pack http://www.mentalhealthaccesspack.org/
- Premier Mind and Soul http://www.mindandsoul.info/
 Mental Health Foundation http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/
 World Health Organisation http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/
 Premier Mind and Soul website
 The Sunday Telegraph- Jan 26th , 2015(- scroll down for Joint Letter)http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/11380527/Letters-Remembering-a-man-who-fought-to-save-Jews-from-extermination.html )