Mental Health & Illness


Mental Health & Illness

Ministry opportunities and challenges

two young women sit on a couch holding hands. Both are bent over in grief

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Mental health is the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.

Mental illness refers collectively to all mental disorders--health conditions characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

A healthy faith community recognizes the reality of mental illness as disabling without allowing the illness to define the person. 

Mental illnesses make up the most common category of disabilities in the U.S., yet they may often be overlooked when people think about disability. About one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness in a given year, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. Thus, most church congregations will include many people affected by mental illness, and even more are included when we consider the family members of those who are ill.

Explore the links on this page for a wide variety of resources on mental health to encourage and support your congregation's caring efforts.

Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership - American Psychiatric Association

The Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership of the American Psychiatric Association provides an opportunity to improve understanding of the best science and evidence based treatment for psychiatric illnesses among faith leaders and those in the faith community. Among the resources they offer:

  • Bibliography of Faith/Mental Health Resources
  • "Mental Health: A Guide for Faith Leaders." This guide provides information to help faith leaders work with members of their congregations and their families who are facing mental health challenges.

Webinars, Training Program, and Support Manual from Janelle Bitikofer

Janelle Bitikofer is Executive Director of We Rise International; lead mental health trainer for Churches Care, a mental health and addictions training program for congregations; and author of Streetlights: Empowering Christians to Respond to Mental Illnesses and Addictionsa mental health and addictions support manual for churches. Both Churches Care and Janelle's book are great resources for congregations thinking about supporting those with mental illnesses.

Janelle has collaborated with ADN and Church of the Brethren Discipleship Ministries for two mental health webinars, discussing ways to become more aware of the prevalence of mental illnesses in our congregations and communities, their causes and symptoms, and some keys to providing mutual support:

Pathways to Promise

Pathways to Promise is an "interfaith assistance and resource center that provides virtual and in-person support to faith, spiritual and non-spiritual communities. Through training, consultation, liturgical and educational materials, program models, and assessments, we educate and affect change that creates welcoming and supportive caring communities for persons with mental health challenges, disabilities, and addictions and those who care for them." (From their website.)

Some resources include:

We encourage you to browse their website for even more resources.

 Learn more

    • Ideas for working together in the congregation to create an environment that supports success for children and youth with mental health challenges
    • Learn more about depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental health disorders.
    • Setting healthy boundaries enables us to persist in sharing Christ's love through difficult circumstances.
    • Resources on planning a congregational mental health education series.
    • Learn about understanding and supporting people who live with various mental illnesses
    • Resources for congregations on understanding and supporting trauma healing.
    • Learn about preventing suicide and responding with caring after a suicide has occurred.

 Related topics

 Opening Doors