Mental Health Ministry

Back in Fall 2005, when I first attended Fuller Theological Seminary – a multi-denominational Christian seminary – I wrote a Mental Health Ministry training manual. I just changed the language to make it more inclusive of all faiths. Feel free to use it as you see fit. NAMI FaithNet, by the way, is expert at helping faith communities support those with mental illness. Check out NAMI FaithNet.

Mental Illness, Religion, and Spirituality

Healing, recovery, or simply living with a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder may require medical, psychological, and spiritual support. Struggling with mental illness can at times feel like spiritual war. As someone living with bipolar disorder, while in the deepest of depressions, I’ve experienced what I can only describe as a living hell, and while hypomanic or manic, I’ve believed myself called by God to a higher purpose.

When churches demonize or ostracize the mentally ill, they quite frankly sin by hurting those in need of love and compassion. Many people first go their faith community for help. Churches and faith communities MUST be compassionate and refer people to the proper resources to address their psychiatric or psychological needs. Belief and prayer do not make brain disorders miraculously disappear, but a loving community – religious or secular – can offer support, encouragement, and hope.

  • NAMI FaithNet promotes caring faith communities and the role of faith in recovery for individuals and families affected by mental illness.
  • Mental Health and the Church encourages individuals living with mental illness, educates family members, and equips church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.
  • Research shows that the meditative practice of mindfulness, which is similar to contemplative prayer and has its roots in Zen Buddhism, reduces the severity of many mental health symptoms.

This post started out as a response to Just Plain Ol Vic’s blog post Damn the Devil Inside (My Wife). My comment to Vic was: “Possible for bipolar disorder to be understood as a biological illness of brain and to experience it on a spiritual level as the metaphorically equivalent of the devil. To deny treatment is a mistake. To lay blame is a mistake. But to experience severe depression is to live through a very real hell.”

NAMI Family Member Guest Speaker

Yesterday afternoon at NAMI Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Program, we had the pleasure of listening to Steve Pitman, Board of Directors President of NAMI Orange County, who shared his experience as a family member of those living with mental illness.
Here is a video of Steve Pitman giving a similar speech at The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church at Saddleback Church last March:

You can watch videos of the conference on the Mental Health and the Church YouTube channel:

Last March, I attended the conference and heard Steve Pitman speak. I briefly wrote about my experience on my blog post: The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church. The conference was a joint effort by Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church, Bishop Kevin Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and NAMI Orange County, as well as other faith and community leaders. The conference was:

a one-day event designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.

NAMI FaithNet

For many years NAMI has reached out to faith communities through FaithNet.

NAMI FaithNet is a network of NAMI members and friends dedicated to promoting caring faith communities and promoting the role of faith in recovery for individuals and families affected by mental illness.

NAMI FaithNet is proud to offer two programs and guides to assist NAMI Affiliate and State Organization grass root leaders with their faith outreach efforts. Learn more about Reaching Out to Faith Communities and Bridges of Hope.