Observations on Faith and Mental Health
As a partner of the Department of Health, at FaithAction we want to explore how faith groups can support and improve the health and wellbeing of their communities.
You don’t have to look far to see the significance and prevalence of mental health problems in current UK society (and across the world), with the oft-quoted statistic of one in four people experiencing mental health problems at some point in their lives* and the growing number of mental health awareness campaigns (such as those by Time to Change and ReThink).
As FaithAction has sought to identify how area of mental health could best be approached by faith groups, two things stick out:
- It is murky ground. There is a significant amount of stigma, fear and discrimination which surrounds those with mental health problems within faith groups. This applies across different faiths and ranges from fear of possession to accusations of weakness or lack of faith as a reason for illness. Here there is a responsibility to increase awareness and to reduce unjust stigma around mental illness.
- There is a hugely significant and positive role for faith groups to play in the support of those with mental health illnesses – both within their own congregations and in the wider community. This stems from the position of faith groups as places of community, of meaning, and of connection.
There are a number of steps that faith groups can take to reduce stigma around mental health illnesses and to proactively become places of acceptance and support. However – the effectiveness of these practical steps is dependent on the hearts and minds of individual people… the conversations which happen one-to-one; individuals taking responsibility to look out for others; to pursue deeper relationships; to be supportive and listening without judgement or pressure to change.
No structure, information leaflet, or awareness video can provide the open and caring support that is needed in a community that supports and notices those who are struggling. However, these resources can facilitate and equip faith groups looking to take practical steps into becoming more welcoming, supportive, accepting and aware.
FaithAction has produced and signposted to a number of resources which we hope will do just that. Visit our Friendly Places page to access helpful ideas, tips, videos and information.
As ever – we would love to hear stories of how your faith community has worked around increasing health and wellbeing. We use these stories and examples to show how faith provides practical solutions to the vulnerable across the country, at a national level.
Email your thoughts to [email protected]
*The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report 2001