Mental Health- it’s good to talk
Mental health is in the headlines this week – sadly for all the wrong reasons. However, the fact that people are talking about issues such as depression is, in itself, a good thing. Mental health issues are extremely common, and thought to affect one in four of us, but there is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness in a way that just isn’t there for most physical illnesses.
Creating an atmosphere in which people feel able to talk with others about their struggles is a powerful way of beginning to combat the harm that mental illness brings. Jonny Benjamin, the young man who earlier this year used social media to find and thank the stranger who literally talked him down from a bridge, has said that the simple words “you can get through this, you can get better” gave him a hope that helped more, in his case, than hospital treatment.
People of faith are not immune to mental health problems. This means that faith-based organisations have a real role to play, both in offering acceptance and support to individuals, and in helping to reduce the sense of stigma, shame and isolation that can surround mental illness. There are many ways in which they can do this: through talking openly about the mental health needs of the whole community; improving awareness and dispelling myths, for example through discussion groups or a film event; or addressing issues of wellbeing in public messages or sermons.
In terms of support for individuals, this can be as simple as giving people time and space to speak, as well as making sure that those who can offer pastoral support are visible and approachable. Of course, this does not mean trying to replace professional services, but having an awareness of local mental health services and being able to help people access them can make a valuable difference.
There are more tips on making your faith-based organisation a place of support and acceptance on our Friendly Places pages. And if you agree that faith communities have a positive role to play in the area of mental health, please sign our Pledge.