How I Wish the Church Would Treat Those With a Mental Illness

church would treat mental illness

Guest writer Tara Ulrich gives some great advice on how she wishes the church would treat mental illness.

“There are so many board and care facilities in the shadows of our steeples and we don’t even know they are there.” These very words jumped off the page at me as I researched my final paper for my Loss and Grief class during seminary. How often do these words ring true for the church? How can the church be better about reaching out to those who daily struggle with one of the many mental health issues in our world?

I am the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. My mom had a nervous breakdown shortly after my sister was born. Growing up, we didn’t know anything different. Yet growing up, my sister and I kept pretty silent about Mom’s illness because we saw the stigma associated with the illness. We didn’t want others to know that part of our story. We sat in the pews almost every week praying for the sick and those in need yet only our hearts knew that those prayers included prayers we were saying for our mom and our family.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t until I was 18 years old and working at a Bible camp for the first time that I openly shared about our journey with mental illness. It makes me sad that I didn’t feel comfortable telling our story to anyone especially at church; the one place where we honestly should have been welcomed with open arms. Jesus himself was the first one to break bread with the downtrodden and the outcasts.

I am in no way here to condemn the church or God’s people, because I have been just as guilty as the next person. But I do want to share some ways that I believe the church and God’s people can make a difference in breaking the stigma associated with mental illness and mental health issues.

4 ways the church can help #stopthestigma surrounding #mentalillness. Click To Tweet

1. Get to know me and my mom. Learn what we are passionate about. Share in our hopes and dreams together. But most of all, simply listen to our story and learn from it. “The bravest thing you’ll ever do is tell your story”—Brene Brown

2. Learn more about Mental Health by attending a National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) convention or read more at their website: There are so many great resources available on their website.

3. Start a support group in your area. I am so thankful that my mom’s doctor was so good about asking us if we had any questions. It helped me to understand mom’s illness so much better. There is power in knowing you are not alone!

4. Pray for all who daily struggle with mental illnesses and their families. Include them in the prayers of the people during worship. Mark Mental Illness Awareness Month (Oct) and Mental Health Month (May) during worship in one way or another.

5. Shower them with God’s love!

It took me a long time to tell my family’s story, but know I cannot not tell our story since it is so much of who and whose I am. You may not ever fully understand my journey, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, you can reach out to me by simply showing me and my family—especially my mom—and all who suffer with mental health issues God’s love. Together we can embrace who and whose we are; beloved children of God!

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