Over the last couple of years, there has been an increased awareness around mental health. World, local and personal events may have led to feelings of mental stress, anxiety or depression that many of us have experienced either firsthand or through those close to us.
In response to an apparent growing ministry need, the Diocese of St. Cloud has formed a mental health ministry team to discern and explore ways in which it can support our parishes in this crucial area of pastoral care.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. As one slogan states: “If you have a brain, you have mental health”.
Mental illnesses are health conditions involving the brain. They include significant changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities.
Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
What is Mental Health Ministry?
Faith institutions, by their foundational principles, are in the position to play a critical role in the mental health of their communities. Acceptance and support from a person’s faith community is key, not only to their potential healing, but also to creating a greater awareness of God’s love through the community that surrounds them. Often times, those struggling with a mental illness feel disconnected from the community. Feelings of rejection by their church may also lead to feelings of rejection by God. Accepting a person for who they are reflects God’s unconditional love for us.
The role of a mental health ministry team is to provide spiritual companionship, to listen and enter into relationships; provide spiritual and practical support and resources; and provide educational opportunities for mental health awareness to the parish and community.
Mental health ministry is not about solving someone’s problems, but rather listening and accompanying individuals on their journey.
Human dignity is also at the heart of how we think and speak of others who battle a mental illness. Through the presence of family, friends and other meaningful relationships, along with a welcoming community of faith, we can help individuals suffering from a mental illness know the blessings and grace of a loving God who is always with them.