I have called you by name, you are mine...you are precious in my sight.” Isaiah 43:1-4
The C.H.I.P. coalition works so that all people with mental and addictive illnesses may experience the highest possible level of recovery, resiliency, and integration into their families, their communities, and the economy. We work to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with mental and addictive illness.
Mental health is a topic of great concern today. We are more aware than ever before of the importance of caring for those with a mental illness and the consequences of our failures to properly diagnose and treat mental illness. The Compassionate Congregations Toolkit was created by C.H.I.P. to put into the hands of clergy and lay leaders the tools they need to minister to the people in their faith communities or people whom they may encounter in the neighborhood who have a mental or addictive illness ... to help promote faith communities where awareness, welcome, support, and spiritual care for individuals and families facing mental illness are provided, where barriers of fear and stigma are broken down by openness, education, and personal connection.
Did you know? · One in four persons in our congregations has a family member struggling with mental health issues (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Mental Health:A Report of the Surgeon General, pp.408409.411.)
· A majority of individuals with a mental health issue go first to a spiritual leader for help or are first recognized by a spiritual leader as having a mental health problem. (http://mentalhealthministries.net/)
· 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable or treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of death. (National Institute of Mental Health. Available at www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/harmsway.cfm.)
· A study released in 2012 shows that people with religious/spiritual practices suffer less from depression and those who observe religious/spiritual practices who do have depression recover more quickly than those who do not. (NAMIFaithNet)
· Mental health is an inseparable component of overall health. Mental disorders are real illnesses that respond to specific treatments.
Why Faith Communities?
The faith community has a unique role in supporting and advocating for people living with mental illnesses and those who care about them. Because... · Faith leaders often are the first to recognize an illness in a person or concern in a family; · Pastors are the first to whom many turn; · Those with a mental or addictive illness within a congregation are already connected even if tenuously to a source of help in that congregation; · People of faith know that every person is of equal value; · Faith congregations are called to serve; · Faith communities are numerous and located throughout the community; · Faith communities are by nature committed to their members and the greater good. They are a resource of care, love, talent, time, and welcome.
This material is divided into focuses: Prepare, Welcome, Educate, Serve, and Advocate. Faith communities can use this guide to develop their own unique ministry, a complete vigorous Mental Health Ministry, a special class, support groups, celebration of a national mental health day, or development of a Stephen Ministry, for example . Most will begin small, perhaps led by one or two people who have personal experience and grow organically. Seeds are sown, some take root in worshipping communities, and some grow to meet the needs of the larger community. Faith communities are called to minister and support those with mental and addictive illness in unique ways.
People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action.