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Mental Health Month brings opportunities for opening discussion and reducing stigma

New resource from PC(USA) is available for free downloading

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Mental Health Ministry and the Presbyterian Mental Health Network are encouraging churches to use the month of May to emphasize the importance of mental health.

The ministry has posted a downloadable PDF online to help clergy and other church leaders to inform and educate congregations about mental health during this phase of the pandemic.

In honor of Mental Health Month, “I really tried this year to focus on where we are at this point in time and to make the connections between mental health and systemic racism and poverty and the pandemic” because there are so many intersections, said Donna Miller, associate for Mental Health Ministry.

The free PDF is a collection of links to information and ideas, such as “12 Things Your Congregation Can Do in Mental Health Ministry” and a recently updated web page on the emotional and spiritual care resources of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. The PDF also includes a link to a new collection of worship resources from the United Church of Christ and the United Church of Canada.

The Presbyterian PDF “is designed for anyone in a congregation or mid council who is looking for ways to focus attention on mental health in their community and help the community grow in this area,” Miller said. However, “if somebody were looking for resources that would be personally useful to them or their family, there are links there that they would probably find useful, too.”

Because of the pandemic, Americans and much of the world have been faced with extraordinary challenges for more than a year that have led people to be concerned about their mental health for the first time or contributed to the exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues, according to the PDF.

“Mental Health Month invites us to talk openly about mental health, to destigmatize mental health challenges, and to educate and equip ourselves and our communities for the long haul,” the PDF notes.

Writing a pastoral letter to disseminate through church newsletters or other means is one way of highlighting Mental Health Month, Miller said.

Donna Miller (Screenshot)

“Another thing is to share your story if mental health concerns have impacted you in some way,” she said. “Your story may empower others to seek treatment or have hope.”

Churches also could consider offering educational programs, either in May or other times of the year, on topics such as mental health first aid training, Miller said. That training equips people to provide initial help and support to people developing a mental health issue or substance use problem or who are in crisis.

Despite the development of vaccines and the loosening of some COVID-19 restrictions, the emotional and mental health impacts of the pandemic are likely to be felt for years, Miller said.

“We need to be thinking in churches, especially, about the ways we want to equip ourselves to engage with that new reality,” she said. From dealing with grief and trauma to adjusting to workplace changes and pandemic protocols, “we are all working out how we want to live into a very different future.”

Learn more about the PC(USA) Office of Mental Health Ministry and how it works in partnership with the Presbyterian Mental Health Network.

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