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Integrating Mental Health into the Life of the Church

Break the stigma! It's time to normalize conversations about mental health in the church. Learn how churches can raise awareness and create a culture of openness and support.

Mental Health, Leadership, Healing

Faith Meeting Therapy and Medicine

It was the early nineties. I was finishing my graduate studies and looking for work to hold me and my wife over until I found a pastoral ministry position in a church. I was dealing with OCD and anxiety issues and was grateful to have discovered through my family physician that there was medicine I could take to help manage what I was going through. An individual at the church we were attending offered me the opportunity to work for him, and I shared with him a bit of my story of dealing with OCD and starting to take medicine to address this. His response to me was essentially: “I don't think Christians should be taking medicine for issues like this. I think it demonstrates a lack of faith on the part of the individual to see God heal them.” This experience was my first foray into the separation between church and mental health.

Even though this was about 30 years ago, and the church has grown wiser in some segments of integrating mental health into its life, there remains a disconnect and an ongoing stigma around Christians who struggle with mental health issues. According to recent research, approximately 23% of the adult U.S. population struggles with a mental illness annually, with only about 42% receiving the help they need from mental health services (MHA 2023 Report). There is a need for organizations to advocate for mental health and its services. How can churches and church leaders play a role in that process? Here are some recommendations:

Raise Awareness and Reduce Stigma: When eyeglasses were first introduced in society, there was some stigma about people wearing them; they looked odd and different, creating a bit of a spectacle. However, once people recognized the value of glasses in correcting people’s eyesight, the stigma disappeared over time; the use of eyewear became normalized. Similarly, we need to help people understand that, at times, our brains may need some corrective measures to bring clarity to our mental functions so that we can see and understand life better; these corrective measures can be medicine, therapy, and relational support. Raising awareness through all our communication platforms and conversations helps normalize this issue and helps create a culture of openness for mental health to be discussed with freedom and safety without shame, guilt, embarrassment, and condemnation.
Provide Education and Resources: Organizing workshops, seminars, and group discussions led by trained individuals to help people (of all ages and ministry areas) understand mental health issues and the variety of ways people can receive care. Keeping people informed and educated helps prevent misinformation and malpractice. Providing a resource page on the church’s website with links to mental health organizations, such as NAMI, AACC, APA, SAMHSA, and local support groups and hotlines is extremely helpful.  
Embrace a Holistic Approach to Healing: Cultivate and foster a holistic mindset when it comes to ways to address mental health issues. Who we are as people is very integrated; we are made of mind, body, and soul, all of which are deeply interconnected, which means that part of one’s recovery could be a combination of diet, exercise, meditation, medicine, therapy, pastoral care and prayer, community support, and, even, watching a few good comedies (laughter is good for the soul!). Any particular means of recovery should not be vilified or deified over others; all should be considered under the guidance and care of a trained professional.   

Partner with Mental Health Organizations and Professionals: Working through mental health issues can often be very challenging, as well as complex. Partnering with and referring people to mental health professionals is vitally important. At times, there is a connection between mental illness and abuse, generating an unbearable amount of trauma needing to be worked through where specialized care is required and to know where we can find that kind of care is most helpful.  

Create Space for Recovery and Support Groups: Church facilities are often great places for local support groups (such as AA and NA) to hold their weekly meetings. Offering Celebrate Recovery and Grief Share groups also greatly benefits the community.

Encourage Advocacy and Policy Support: Churches can help move the needle forward by encouraging local, regional, state, and national government agencies to support mental health agencies through legislation and financial support. This can be done by organizing letter-writing campaigns, connecting with representatives, attending relevant legislative sessions, and helping support research and data collection in the arena of mental health.

As we begin May, which has been set aside as Mental Health Awareness Month, please know that the team at Chemistry Staffing is all about seeing churches become more aware and equipped on matters of mental health. In my own personal and pastoral journey of dealing with mental health issues over the past three decades, the words of the Psalmist have been my encouragement and guide:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  (Psalm 18:16-19)

If I can be of any help to your church and leadership as you navigate the “deep waters” of mental health/illness and move towards a place of “spacious places,” please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I am here for you!   

Dr. Allan Love

Dr. Allan Love

Allan has been involved in church ministry for the past 25 years in a variety of roles and settings: church planter, Pastor of Disciple Making and Adult Ministries, Executive Pastor and Coach/Consultant. Allan has experienced many transitions in ministry from a variety of different perspectives. He understands that as painful and stressful transitions can be, they have the potential to transform you more than most things can! Allan, along with his wife of 33 years, Gloria, young adult daughter, and Luna (family Lhasa Apso), lives in Jacksonville, Florida. His son serves as a pastor in Virginia Beach with his wife and daughter. Allan and his family are originally from Canada, where he earned his Master’s in Biblical Studies (Regent College) and Doctorate in Missional Leadership (Carey). Additionally, he is certified as an MBTI, CPI 260 and StratOp Practitioner, and as a Church Unique and God Dreams Navigator. He is an avid runner who loves to hang out with family and friends and is committed to serving pastors and local churches to help them to live out their unique calling.

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