When it comes to pastoral care, we Episcopalians have it down. Our response to crises like physical illness, injury, and loss of a loved one is swift and supportive, from meals to cards to prayers to lending a listening ear. But what about the ongoing crises of mental illness facing people in our community, in our nation, and around the world? What is our comfort level in responding to those with mental health concerns? Do we feel safe talking about things like depression and anxiety, addiction and substance abuse, and living with family members experiencing serious disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia?
Chances are, there’s some hesitation around these topics. Some tiptoeing. Some uncomfortable shifting and hushed conversation. For though Congress designated the first full week of October to focus on mental health, the stigma in our society around mental illness persists.
As we are called to Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.(Galatians 6:2), this includes the heavy burden of being affected by mental health issues.
Beyond serious mental disorders, we all have days and moments—lately, even months—where stress and anxiety can overwhelm us. God created us as whole beings, with thoughts, feelings, and spirit all wrapped in flesh-and-blood, earthly bodies. Our approach to health and wellness should thus be holistic: the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual within us are all deeply interwoven.
As we embark on Mental Illness Awareness Week, I invite you to explore how you can learn more about mental health concerns, to become more aware, more sensitive, and more comfortable around these topics. As a faith community, I pray Christ Church is open to discerning ways we can serve as a haven of welcome, acceptance, support, and advocacy for those affected by mental illness.
Mental Illness Awareness Week runs from October 4 – 10, with specific events including:
Tuesday Oct. 6: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
Thursday Oct. 8: National Depression Screening Day
Saturday Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day
Saturday Oct. 10: NAMIWalks National Day of Hope
If you’d like to learn more about our Christian response to mental illness, let’s talk. I also invite you to check out the valuable resources available from Howard County National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).
Finally, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.