Building Relationships With People With Mental Illnesses

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From Disability Concerns Inclusion Handbook, here are some ideas for ministry with people who have mental illnesses. Please feel free to share these with your congregation in a newsletter, from the pulpit, or some other way.

  • Greet the person normally, making brief eye contact with “Hello” and the person’s name.
  • Avoid asking, “How are you doing?” or “How do you feel?” These phrases are extremely painful, especially when other people are present.
  • Don’t be afraid to make “small talk.”
  • “I’m glad to see you,” is one of the most helpful phrases.
  • Do not push or pressure other people when they say they cannot do something you ask them to do.
  • Listen when they try to talk about their difficulty. It's important to them that you know and care.
  • Do not try to make light of the difficulty. It may seem like a small problem to you, but it is a big problem to them.
  • Do not try to determine what people can or cannot do from what you observe them doing. Sometimes people can do things in one environment that they cannot do in another.
  • Above all, realize that most people are doing the best they can at any given moment with the abilities they have and in the environment surrounding them.
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