May is Mental Health Month: 3 ways congregations can get involved

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, approximately one in five adults (43.8 million people or 18.5 percent of the population) in the US experiences mental illness in a given year. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly half of all Americans will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.

Despite the need for mental health programs and services, 60 percent of Texans experiencing a mental illness and 90 percent of Texans with a substance use disorder do not receive professional help. According to EHF research, uninsured Texans are twice as likely to delay seeking mental health treatment.

Congregations are in a unique position, as they are often the first line of defense for people who need support or are looking for help; for those experiencing a mental health issue, it is no different. EHF partners with congregations and leaders across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to support those with mental illness by increasing awareness and reducing the associated stigma.

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Here are some ways your congregation can get involved and support the mental health of your community:

1 Advocacy is an important strategy to decrease stigma and create awareness of mental health. Members of congregations and communities can advocate for mental health by writing letters to elected government officials and speaking out against stigma and stereotypes. Advocacy also requires that individuals inform their communities about the truths of mental illness and take action against the injustice and discrimination that stigma creates.

Below are links to several organizations leading the way in mental health advocacy:

  • Mental Health America (MHA) - Texas – MHA is a national community-based nonprofit, seeking to promote mental health awareness, prevent mental health disorders and achieve victory over mental illness thorough advocacy, education, research and services.
  • Meadows Mental Health “Ok To Say” Campaign – This campaign is a new Texas-based movement to increase public awareness about mental health issues and available services in Texas, and eliminate discrimination and stereotypes surrounding mental health.

2 Education dispels the myths of mental health and equips individuals with the knowledge and ability to spread understanding that these illnesses are like any other. These educational interventions emphasize replacing assumptions with real information and lead to improved understanding of the challenges facing those with mental illness, along with greater compassion and the ability to respond in supportive ways.

To date, more than 25 congregations and Episcopal groups have hosted an Adult or Youth Mental Health First Aid, training more than 500 people across the diocese to learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, dispel myths and misconceptions, and gain the skills to help someone in crisis.

  • EHF's Mental Health First Aid workshops – EHF is offering these internationally-recognized, evidence-based workshops to congregations by request. The workshops involve eight hours of training, resulting in greater understanding of how to support those experiencing a mental health crisis. We now offer both Adult and Youth modules.
  • Hope and Healing Center (HHC) – HHC is a comprehensive mental health resource dedicated to transforming lives and restoring hope through education, training, and supportive services.

3 Support and inclusivity as a strategy can encourage treatment by reducing feelings of isolation and increasing self-esteem. Studies also show that direct contact and dialogue with people who have mental health disorders helps to improve the overall attitude toward mental health and leads to acceptance of others who suffer with these issues.

Congregations can play a major role in offering facilities for peer support groups and meetings through organizations such as National Alliance on Mental Illness and Living Compass.

  • Living Compass – Living Compass is a church-based faith and wellness program designed for individuals and small groups. The structured holistic wellness program is a self-guided wellness retreat that presents an understanding of mental health, social support, spiritual health, and cooperation to heal the self and the community.
  • The Grace Alliance – This is a program of faith-based support groups for individuals with mental illness and their families. The very specific training is offered to assist in good communication between individuals with mental illness and their support community in a spiritual setting.
  • The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) – DBSA is a leading peer-directed national organization providing peer-based service and resources available in local support groups, online 24/7, and audio and video programs to improve the lives of those living with mood disorders.

4 Additional Resources for Faith-Based Organizations

Through EHF's congregational engagement work, we hope to help congregations reduce mental illness in communities by reducing stigma and discrimination, increasing local knowledge and understanding, creating supportive communities skilled in responding, and advancing positive mental health and wellness.

If your congregation is interested in supporting mental health through advocacy, training, or support groups, please contact us to learn how we can partner to get started!

May 2017

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