Pastors, clergy, and faith community leaders are often the first contacts individuals and families turn to when impacted by experiences of grief, relationship or personal issues, and challenges with mental health. To help address these situations, faith and community leaders often pursue resources that can educate their community members on how to better cope with these issues. Pastors and community leaders should be interested in a program that helps to address the felt needs of their members and that serves as a means of outreach to the community. By increasing awareness about mental health issues, it becomes easier for those seeking help to find it.
A mental health education program provides a foundation for understanding mental health, the underlying and contributing factors, and actionable information that a person can apply in their daily life to improve their health outcomes overall. Faith-based organizations also play an important role in the long-term recovery of people living with mental illnesses. Among their many provisions, they provide a connection to a community and a way to find purpose in life for those struggling to find one.
Church communities are naturally set up to help those struggling with mental health issues. Read about how a mental health education program is one of the best forms of outreach to address a felt need in your community.
How Can Churches Offer Mental Health Education?
In the U.S., 40 percent of people seek support from clergy for mental health concerns.[i] In one study, it was found that one-quarter of those who sought treatment for mental disorders did so through the help of a clergy member.[ii]
For those who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety or other mental illnesses, mental health care systems can be difficult to access. They might not ever know that they exist. A mental health education program can train church leaders and members to offer a curriculum that educates the participants on:
How to understand depression and anxiety.
How to recognize symptoms.
The underlying causes of depression and anxiety.
What to do to overcome depression and anxiety.
Pastors and clergy should be interested in offering this education to their members and community as it is proven to improve mental health outcomes.
How Church Leaders and Members Can Help
Church leaders and members have several ways to help those experiencing symptoms of mental health issues, including:
Discuss mental health openly with the congregation: Through sermons, classes, meetings, and forums, you can help de-stigmatize mental illness and even turn members into advocates and resources for those who suffer. Align educating the congregation on common mental health issues with Mental Health Month in May or Mental Illness Awareness Week in October.
Consult with members of the congregation working in the mental health field: Congregations are made up of people from a variety of professional backgrounds. Members who work in the mental health field can offer interpersonal solutions, such as how to talk with those who need help in a productive way, as well as outside resources.
Start your own community mental health education program: A community mental health education program serves members of the congregation and those struggling with mental health alike. These programs educate those who want to help and serve as a set of solutions for those suffering.
Reach out to community mental health centers: For some people the best resource might be outside of the church. Community mental health centers provide a wide range of services and resources, such as in-patient services, therapy, and medication treatment.
What is a Community Mental Health Education Program?
A community mental health program is educational assets and activities that promote solutions for mental health disorders. These programs take place throughout communities—in community centers, schools, and churches—rather than in institutional settings.
A community mental health education program is educational in nature and held in a group setting to educate participants on how to find freedom from depression and anxiety. These programs incorporate science-backed techniques that encompass the whole person. They address the mind, body, and spirit by implementing changes to lifestyle, diet, exercise, and many other habits and perspectives.
The programming could encompass a number of different techniques, including how to:
Overcome depression and anxiety through a holistic method.
Discover how to achieve a healthy sense of self-worth.
Learn coping skills for when life becomes difficult or stressful.
Find the motivation and concentration to achieve goals.
Benefit from stress management planning and practice.
Enhance frontal lobe function and overcome addictions.
Find purpose after loss and trauma.
Church members and leaders are well-versed when it comes to the power of community efforts. Overcoming depression and anxiety is just that—effort from both the individual and their network of friends and family. That’s why mental health education is also useful for those who want to learn how to help friends or family who suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How Can You Start a Community Mental Health Education Program?
There is sufficient evidence to show the effectiveness of community interventions and education programs that aim to improve mental health outcomes in communities with diverse socioeconomic statuses.[iii] Community mental health education programs connect people with resources to address their symptoms and find a solution. Churches seeking to provide education to diverse socioeconomic groups can choose to subsidize the program costs for their community.
The process of starting a community mental program in your church starts by learning who you will be helping, undergoing the certification process, assembling a team, and setting up sessions in the church.
Identify Who Will Be Helped
These programs focus primarily on those who suffer from depression and anxiety, but they can also serve as useful resources for those who want to better understand the conditions; in other words, those whose loved ones are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In addition to depression and anxiety disorders, conditions that are addressed include phobias, eating disorders, PTSD, addiction disorders, ADHD, and many others. Certain disorders, such as schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses, should be addressed by professionals.
Certification is different depending on the program, but many provide certification courses through self-paced online modules. These training programs provide the tools, materials, training, and technical assistance to help participants become educated on mental health and implement lifestyle changes.
Build a Team
Community mental health education programs are often more easily run by teams than individuals. This way the entire program can be delegated. Each member of the team will need to be certified.
Set Up Sessions
Once you have received certification and built your team, you can begin marketing your community sessions. Keep in mind that your marketing materials will be dependent on the audience. Newspaper advertisements, social media posts, and fliers are all recommended, but some might work better depending on the audience.
An introductory session is recommended. During these sessions, potential participants will be introduced to what they will learn, the activities they will participate in, and—most importantly—the benefits they will receive.
Once you have a set number of participants signed up and have purchased the materials for your participants, you just need to set the time and date for your sessions. You’re ready to change lives.
Mental Health Resources for Churches from the NDARP
As a member of a church, you understand the value of helping others. You can do just that for those suffering from depression and anxiety by starting a mental health education program at your church. By using the community Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program™, you will be equipped with all the tools necessary to run a successful mental health community education program. Through this eight-week program that takes an evidence-based, holistic approach, the mental performance and health of participants will be improved. Participants without anxiety and depression will gain the education they need to help their loved ones sustain the education and activities learned during these sessions.