Disabilities Ministries addresses mental health with General Synod resolution
With mental health issues impacting one in four Americans in any given year, the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries wants to erase the stigma associated with these disorders and those who seek treatment for them. The ministry of inclusion has submitted a resolution to be considered by delegates of the 30th General Synod that would encourage UCC congregations to become WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged) Congregations for Mental Health, and to educate their congregants and communities about mental health issues.
General Synod 2015 will take place June 26-30 at the Cleveland Convention Center.
“Breaking the silence on mental illness will lead to a deeper compassion toward those who are affected by mental illness,” said Alan Johnson, chair of the UCC Mental Health Network. “It can create a safe space so as to speak honestly about mental health challenges, including offering acceptance for speaking out for the family members of those who are living with those mental health challenges. Congregations can be assertive in offering education and encouraging conversation.”
The resolution calls on UCC congregations to become Welcoming, Inclusive and Supportive of congregants with mental health challenges and their families, and to Engage (WISE) with other groups working in this arena. The resolution also encourages congregations to address the fraying social safety net for persons with serious brain disorders – including those who are chronically homeless, incarcerated, and suffering from addiction – and work to eradicate the stigma around these disabilities that impact millions of individuals.
The resolution includes steps for a congregation to become a WISE Congregation for Mental Health:
- Engage in education, awareness, and study with resources available through the UCC Mental Health Network
- Increase awareness through a mental health task force
- Write a WISE covenant to share with church boards and committees
- Vote to become a WISE Congregation for Mental Health, and consider joining or continuing to be part of the UCC Mental Health Network
- Work toward addressing social change at a local or state level
“The potential for social change is vast. There are 5,100 United Church of Christ congregations, each filled with caring individuals,” the resolution states. “If we raise awareness among these United Church of Christ members and help them expand their compassion for people with mental illnesses and their families, we will be sowing the seeds for a more just and loving world, as Jesus himself demonstrated for us.”
Since 1993, the UCC has worked to bring attention to mental illnesses and brain disorders, including passing a resolution at General Synod in 1995 titled, “Calling the People of God to Justice for Persons with Serious Mental Illnesses (Brain Disorders).” The UCC Mental Health Network focuses on this ministry, and includes individuals from UCC congregations throughout the country, some who have mental illnesses and some who have family members with mental illnesses.
“The prevalence of mental health challenges has become a national concern,” Johnson said. “As more people are finding that there are treatments for these challenges, our UCC congregations can be in the vanguard of this movement.”
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