Synod of Victoria and Tasmania moderator Sharon Hollis says Christians should be aware of the language they use regarding mental health issues if they want to model the love and acceptance of Jesus.
In a video message released for Mental Health Week Ms Hollis said that a fear of being labelled or summed up means some people never talk about their mental health issues.
In the video Ms Hollis gives some advice on how congregations can offer supportive environments for those with mental health issues.
“When we talk about mental illness we need to be aware of our language. Speak of it in the same way you would of a physical illness,” Ms Hollis said.
“Don’t suggest that people are suffering from a mental illness because they lack faith, they don’t trust God enough, that they haven’t prayed enough.
“Keep reaching out, continue to offer care, even when it might be rebuffed at first.”
See the full transcript of the video below:
Almost every congregation has people who have had or are experiencing mental illness. Or at least that is what the statistics about mental illness tell us. Of course, the statistic can’t tell us the stories of what it is like to live with a mental illness.
Some people function very well with their mental illness, while others experience anguish and isolation. Mental Health Week comes as an annual reminder that tragically many people fear being summed up and labelled by their condition so they never speak of it.
Here are some things I think we can do to help create an environment where people with a mental illness might feel supported.
When we talk about mental illness we need to be aware of our language. Speak of it in the same way you would of a physical illness. Don’t suggest that people are suffering from a mental illness because they lack faith, they don’t trust God enough, they haven’t prayed enough. Keep reaching out, continue to offer care, even when it might be rebuffed at first. Welcome them back warmly if their mental illness has meant an absence from community. We need to model the love and acceptance of Jesus that sees the child of God and not the affliction.
Mental illness has profoundly impacted my life and the lives of my family. Last year during Mental Health Week I was blessed to be able to attend three events around the Synod, two in Victoria and one in Tasmania, that showed the determination and resilience that people who suffer mental illness and those who care for them show. I saw congregations offering hospitality, community support and welcome.
I have also been hosting lunches focused on resilience to learn from each how we can strengthen our mental wellbeing. I learned a great deal about resilience from Amanda Laycock from Scots School Albury. She told how she builds resilience in kids.
Amanda Laycock: I think the thing that helps me most is practice. Resilience is a muscle. You practice it, you have to strengthen it, it’s like lifting weights to build your arm muscle. This ‘have a go’ mentality can start small: meeting a stranger, having a conversation with someone you’re not comfortable with, just putting yourself out there practicing your resilience, practicing this muscle and having a go.
This mental health week my prayer is that we may find ways to build our resilience and courage. For those times when our mental health fails us the good news is that God is constant in love walking with us through all the small and great challenges of our lives. For those who suffer loss due to mental illness God is merciful in compassion journeying with us through our grief. For all of us the good news is that God is our source of hope and wholeness.