A lot of times people with a mental illness shy away from churches because the stigma attached to their illness is so great and they have been made feel unwelcome by their fellow worshipers. Many people I have talked to (and many blogs I have read) talk about being an outcast and afraid to admit to their illness because they have been treated differently in the past. Some people have been made to feel as if they are weak in their faith and if they just prayed harder/better they would not be having the problems they have.
Especially the stigma surrounding suicide is keeping many people away from the church and keeping many people inside afraid of seeking the help they might need.
One of the things that has oftentimes been said at the church I attend is the importance of mental wellness. We have a 'Minister of Counseling and Enrichment' who is the director of the 'Enrichment Center' here in town that offers counseling services for individuals, families and couples.
Last year around the time of 'Mental Illness Awareness Week' I noticed bright little cards all over church with numbers to local services like NAMI, and the local Mental Health Organization. I never picked one up since I had the numbers on there. This past Sunday I did pick one up and looked to see if there was anything on the back as well. And there was.
This is what it said
Mental Illness is an experience of exile made more unbearable by other's ignorance of what they are going through. Jeremiah's words call us to greet those with mental illness with welcome, support and acceptance. "God grant us justice to those chosen ones who cry to God day and night." God has made us all trustees of God's hope--how can we make that hope real for those with mental illness?
I hope that many people throughout the time these cards have been laying out have read this message and been able to take something from it. Be it that they finally felt the courage to approach someone to ask for help or that it at least opened their eyes at least a little bit to those around them affected by mental illness.
Mental Illness is a topic too often ignored or, worse, demonized in many churches. This is such a wonderful step in the right direction for those that feel like outcasts in a community they want to lean on for help.