To be consoled

Today is World Mental Health day, and it seems like a good time to consider something I think is a common problem in churches.

It’s a common one that anyone who is even loosely involved in a church can probably identify with. With so many opportunities to serve, people are often eager to ask for help. Youth group, food bank, children’s church, coffee rota, newletters, charity fundraising, church council, community outreach, mid week coffee morning, bake sale, awareness raising, the list goes on. For the most part it’s wonderful; an active, thriving church is a beautiful thing.

However, it can easily go wrong. If more activities are started than there are resources for, if the majority say no, or if everyone is used to a particular person always saying ‘yes’, a large burden can fall on few shoulders.

Sometimes that’s fine, some people have the time for that, some people love being really busy, but some people need the space to either be able to say ‘no’, or to not be asked.

There are examples of this in the “Mental Health, The Inclusive Church Resource” book, in the experiences section if you’re interested.

So, how would we look at making the church a more welcoming and inclusive place for people who have a mental health illness and really struggle with time out being a basic necessity? Honestly, I think wellbeing and taking care of yourself, as well as others, needs to be a higher priority.

“O Lord grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console

To be understood as to understand

To be loved as to love with all my soul”

There are several songs along these lines, help me serve before I consider myself. It’s in sermons, in attitudes, in conversation. It makes it incredibly hard to say no, I’m ill, I’m not up to that, I don’t have time.

As a community I think it’s really important that we make an effort to check in with people, talk about things, and to try and not ask too much, especially if we’re aware someone is struggling. Although please be aware you may not know. According to Time To Change’s 2008 survey, 87% of people directly affected by a mental health problem have experienced stigma or negative discrimination, almost 4,000 people were surveyed. (For more information see: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/sites/default/files/Stigma%20Shout.pdf

It takes love, care, consideration and education to improve the situation, but with genuine care and commitment we can be a part of a change for the better.