Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Advocating for Mental Health Ministries and Support

Churches are places where families gather for prayer, worship, and live out their Christian discipleship in mission. We feed the hungry, provide activities for children and youth, and make space for the celebration of baptisms and end of life memorials. We welcome people into our churches, recognizing we all carry burdens that are made lighter in a caring, compassionate community.

What is the role of our churches when it comes to supporting families and individuals affected by mental illness? To advocate for more resources to be made accessible to families in every county in Iowa is one response. Providing resource information and continuing education training for pastors and outreach ministers can be a step forward. Every time there is a suicide, family members, and often whole communities, are impacted.

Are we making use of the connectional nature of our church or are we resigned to simply pray at a distance?

Mental health impacts all communities, churches and families. I grieve over the many veterans who have served our country and suffer upon returning home due to a slow response from much needed medical services. Over the Christmas holidays, I talked to the wife of a wounded soldier who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her husband suffered serious wounds and was forced to retire on disability. She reminded me that people have no idea how hard it is for many families to get the help they need. Long waits for needed physical therapy and counseling are a part of this family’s story.

More attention to mental health issues, including church-based support programs, can be a way to be a part of collaborative solutions. The alternative is more lamenting and grieving as homeless numbers increase, suicides continue, and some persons end up in jail when they really need intervention, outpatient and family support.

There are incredible people doing excellent work all across Iowa.

My question: Is there a role for the church? Please let me know what you think and what you are doing?

Be encouraged,

Bishop Julius C. Trimble