The U.S. president has declared that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) designated last week as National Mental Health Week. President Obama's proclamation begins, "Despite great strides in our understanding of mental illness and vast improvements in the dialogue surrounding it, too many still suffer in silence."
Similarly, Peter Coleridge, CMHA CEO, says, “Too often people claim to be feeling fine when they do not feel fine. Many may be experiencing poor mental health, but do not want to talk about it or seek support because of the discrimination and stigma associated with mental health problems.”
The infographic below, from the University of Southern California School of Social Work, lays out a few of the facts about us; I say "us" because all of us are directly or indirectly affected by mental illness. Too many people in churches, though, keep quiet about their own or their loved one's mental health challenges because they fear being ostracized, gossiped about, or maligned if they "come out." But consider some facts:
- More than 50 percent of students with a mental health disorder age 14 and older drop out of high school
- Between 20 and 25 percent of North Americans are affected by mental health disorder.
- One in 5 children has had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.
Shouldn't we be talking about this? What do we need to do to talk about mental health and mental illness in our churches in a way that people feel safe and loved and accepted and cared for?