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.
Most church congregations will include many people affected by mental illness.
"In many ways, faith communities are the nation’s de facto mental health system," writes Douglas Ronsheim of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. "Research shows that a person’s faith leader is often the first professional they turn to for a wide variety of issues. A Health Services Research study showed that 25 percent of those who’ve ever sought treatment for mental disorders did so from a faith leader, and nearly one-quarter of those seeking help from a faith leader have serious mental disorders."
Explore the links on this page for a wide variety of resources on mental health to encourage and support your congregation's caring efforts.
ADN Mental Health Resource for Congregations
Mental Health of Children and Youth
Resources from others
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 are:
- 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.