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.
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:
Pastors and clergy should be interested in offering this education to their members and community as it is proven to improve mental health outcomes.
Church leaders and members have several ways to help those experiencing symptoms of mental health issues, including:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Take the next step by planning a mental health program today.
[i] Heseltine-Carp, W., & Hoskins, M. (2020). Clergy as a Frontline Mental Health Service: A UK survey of medical practitioners and clergy. General psychiatry.
[ii] Wang, P. S., Berglund, P. A., & Kessler, R. C. (2003). Patterns and correlates of contacting clergy for mental disorders in the United States. Health services research.
[iii] Castillo, E. G., Ijadi-Maghsoodi, R., Shadravan, et al. (2019). Community interventions to promote mental health and social equity. Current psychiatry reports.
See the strong link between depression and dementia and learn how to reduce the risks of these diseases.