Dear Church Community,
This is Mental Health Awareness Month and never has it been more important. Every year, 1 in 4 Americans experiences a mental health disorder (with the ratio higher this past year). This means someone you know well—yourself, a family member, a close friend, or a colleague—is likely struggling with their mental health. And we, as a church, can best love our neighbors and ourselves if we understand this and other facts (all cited from the National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH).
Though at least 1 in 4 Americans faces a mental health challenge each year, the main burden falls on a smaller population. Approximately 1 in 17 (almost 14 million) Americans lives with a more serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, a developmental or intellectual disability, or one of the personality disorders. Sadly, due to lack of resources and societal stigma, many go untreated.
Specifically, almost 60% of adults and half of youth ages 8-15 with a mental illness received no mental health care in 2019. Why? Because resources are scattered, inadequate, and often prohibitively expensive. Even when mental health care is affordable and available, societal stigma can prevent people from seeking help.
This is unconscionable and why churches are called to get involved. Jesus asked us to love our neighbor as our self. And whether it’s our self or our neighbor who’s struggling with mental health, we’re called to make sure people have the resources needed to experience relief from their symptoms and live fulfilling lives. This means advocating for better mental health care (which should be at least as affordable and available as other medical care), educating others about what mental illness is (and is not), and helping eliminate the stigma that prevents so many from seeking help.
Our denomination is fortunate to have the UCC Mental Health Network, which does an excellent job of providing resources about mental health issues and suggesting ways churches can get involved in advocating for change and providing support to people in our own congregations. Please check out their website and consider making a donation.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, I encourage you to reach out. I’m not a mental health professional, but I have a lot of experience counseling and referring people for additional help. You can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which has local chapters in each state and DC. NAMI offers information and support both to those experiencing mental health disorders and to family members and friends. In addition, NAMI advocates for (and provides excellent resources so you can advocate for) better mental health care services and reduced societal stigma.
If you have a story about your own challenges with mental health, please consider sharing it with me. For my sermon this Sunday, I’d love to include stories that both educate us all and inspire those in need to seek treatment and have hope. Your story can be anonymous or named, whichever you prefer. Please email me by tomorrow (Friday) evening. Thank you!
With Grace and Peace,
P.S. If you have a suggestion for how to access vehicles of any size, shape, condition (including construction vehicles) please contact me. Celestine’s home community has gratefully received the donated van and household supplies he shipped in February.
Given the success of this shipment and the great need of his community, Celestine is seeking additional donations of personal or commercial vehicles. He’s also looking for generators and step-down-multi voltage transformers. Thank you!