All are welcome

Oct 20: Mental Health Sunday at High Country UCC

HCUCC has accepted an invitation from the national UCC’s “Mental Health Network” to highlight mental health awareness – and combat damaging stigma – on Sunday October 20, 2013 during our 11am worship hour. Some first-hand stories will also be shared. Stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness keep many people from openly discussing or learning about mental health issues, and too often people suffer in silence rather than risk exposure to stigma – even to seek treatment. Jesus taught about caring for and lifting up those who were shut out, and affirming the worth of everyone. Our mission at HCUCC is to inspire positive change in our world as we are let by Christ’s example of love, compassion, and acceptance of all people. This focus is an excellent way for us to widen our welcome. Here is the full set of worship materials we used for the service.

Statistically speaking, about 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. In the United States, 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, while 1 in 17 adults have a seriously debilitating mental illness. Despite the fact that mental illnesses are increasingly understood to be biochemically based disorders which usually respond to treatment, myths yet remain that attribute false blame: that they are due to weakness of character, inadequate willpower, or lack of faith. Further, research shows that stigma around mental illness still leads people to avoid living with, socializing with, working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders.

These attitudes make it very difficult for people with mental illness to maintain self-esteem and a sense of self-worth. In addition, it is less likely that unaffected individuals will discover that sometimes mental traits or states labeled “disorders” can have benefits including unusual perspective, and above-average: creativity, sensitivity, innovation, non-conformity, goal-striving, meticulousness, introspection, compassion, or empathy. I say this not to minimize the challenges, difficulties, and often outright suffering involved with severe mental disorders which often seem more prominent. It is simply a reminder that diversities of all sorts can involve hidden gifts as well as spiritual growth opportunities which are often overlooked at first glance.

Each of the groups below offers excellent online resources related to faith and mental health.

  • The national UCC’s Mental Health Network, began in 1992 responding to the need for communication among families and congregations to facilitate education, advocacy, support, and ministries around mental health; and reducing stigma and discrimination against persons with mental health concerns. The precursor site is still online as well, as the Mental Illness Network, though I am not sure how current the content may be.
  • The ecumenical group, Mental Health Ministries, is an interactive web based ministry to provide educational resources to help erase the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities. Their Mission: to help faith communities be caring congregations for people living with a mental illness and those who love and care for them.
  • The interfaith group, Interfaith Network on Mental Illness, affirms that spirituality is an important component of recovery from mental illness and seeks to assist faith communities in nurturing supportive environments for persons dealing with mental illnesses and their family and friends.

A list of 35 well-known people whose lives have included mental illness is available at the following website http://gsappweb.rutgers.edu/centers/stigma/people.php

NAMI or National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a nationwide advocacy and support group representing people and families affected by mental illness. In Boone there is a local chapter, NAMI High Country which has regular meetings which are free and open to all, a newsletter, radio appearances, special events, and standardized NAMI programs. In addition, there is a NAMI High Country facebook page. If you would like to speak with someone to learn more about the local NAMI group, leave a message at 828-278-9293.