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The Church and the Care of the Mentally Ill

Mission and ministry are the responsibility of all believers even when it comes to mental health issues. Christians have a special calling in this area.

All churches have a calling to work for the health and acceptance of all peoples. Our prayer is that churches move toward becoming true communities where individual needs find understanding and support. The fellowship of believers has always been a healing community: accepting, affirming, a context in which those wounded or handicapped find empowerment.

Community based care assumes that there will be welcoming groups in the community to provide the support and understanding needed …

Local congregations are challenged to strive for mental health in individuals and in society. We need to see mental health is not just the work of the few, or reserved for those paid to serve. We believe that mission and ministry are the responsibility of all believers, therefore Christians have a special calling in the area of mental health.

In May of 2006, Senator Michael Kirby and his committee published their Report: Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental illness and Addictions Services in Canada. This Report provides a much needed national strategy to improve these services and their outcomes in our nation. Recently, a Mental Health Commission with a ten million dollar budget, was established and Michael Kirby is now its Commissioner. This Report makes about one hundred recommendations and promotes the need for "community based care."

Community based care assumes that there will be welcoming groups in the community to provide the support and understanding needed by those who suffer from mental illness. If not the churches, then who?

Our Christian communities add the spiritual dimension to the biological = psychological/social model of being human. The Christian understanding of family is also a valuable addition to the general view of the role of family. Christ put the weight of His authority behind the basic Old Testament estimate of the family (see Mark 7:10ff) and presented His teaching in terms of the family (see Luke 11:11, 15:11-32, Matt 21:31).

With the Christian fellowship, consumers of mental health services and their families and caregivers will find acceptance, friendship, prayer and intercession, all of which can lead to strength and growth. This does not necessarily translate into cures of their mental disease, but rather a state of wellness that allows for meaningful occupations and opportunities to contribute to the life of the community.

Here is a strategy

1. Choose a church which has professionals who work in Mental Health and /or Addictions services;

2. Encourage these professionals to work together for education and support of family units in which there are consumers of mental health services;

3. Tell their story at church gatherings and larger gatherings such as associations or conventions.

Roger Cann, PhD, is based in Kentville, Nova Scotia, and is a member of Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches.

Originally published in Tidings, Spring 2007.




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