Churches can provide mental health friendly communities
Emilie Ruddick, mental health professional in North Norfolk explains how churches are stepping up to support their local communities.
It would be hard to escape all mention of mental health in the media these days, with the Royals opening up about their experiences, reported cases of mental ill health on the rise across all generations in this country and political calls for further support surrounding the topic. So where does that leave churches? Should they get involved or leave it to mental health support services?
Simon Fenn, Cromer Church, Community Champion for the Wellbeing Service says:
“With churches at the front line in our communities and with most of us, if not all of us, personally struggling or knowing of someone who has struggled with emotional health in recent years, there has never been a more critical time for Christians to rise up and start engaging with the topic of mental health.”
Over the past few months, organisations supporting people with their mental health and a number of North Norfolk churches have started working together to equip, encourage and train pastoral teams in understanding and supporting those in their communities who are experiencing mental ill health.
With churches identified as being in a unique position, at the heart of many communities, and serving and reaching people from all walks of life, there are a number of ways in which they can start to engage with the topic of mental health.
Just as we all have ‘physical health’ we also all have ‘mental health’ and reducing stigma and shame surrounding mental health in churches is essential in creating a safe place for people to start the journey of recovery with the support of their Christian community. Encouraging honest conversations about emotional and mental health, inviting people to share their experiences at the front of church or in small groups and including mental ill health in general prayers are all examples of talking openly about this topic and starting to shift the atmosphere.
Seeking training opportunities and equipping those who have a heart to serve those who are hurting can provide tools for effective support within the church community. Mental Health First Aid training or Community Champion training are just some courses available in Norfolk.
It can be really difficult to ask for help for a variety of reasons. Respecting this and consequentially honouring the step of those asking for help with empathy and non-judgemental listening is something we can all do. Very practically, supporting someone with self-referrals or transport to appointments are just small examples of getting alongside people which can make all the difference when it comes to recovery.
Personally, I am really encouraged by the work that the Wellbeing Service and churches are starting to do within North Norfolk, motivated by the vision for churches to become a refuge for all and creating mental health friendly communities.
If you would like the receive Community Champion training contact Emilie Ruddick at firstname.lastname@example.org
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