Webinar, resources will highlight ‘care for our whole selves’ during Mental Health Awareness month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the United Church of Christ is kicking it off with a webinar conversation about youth mental health and how it intersects with Our Whole Lives.
The webinar, “OWL Taking Flight: Mental Health Awareness While Offering Our Whole Lives,” will include panelists the Rev. Sarah Lund, UCC minister for mental health and disabilities, and Jennica Davis-Hockett, youth ministry specialist for the Unitarian Universalist Association. Registration is open for the webinar, taking place Wednesday, May 3 at noon ET.
One aim of holding conversations like these is to work against the stigma that can exist around topics concerning sexuality and mental health.
“Mental health awareness is an important topic to address because it’s important to care for our whole selves, including our mental health, without shame or stigma,” said the Rev. Amy Johnson, UCC minister for sexuality education and justice.
“We’re all concerned with the stigma that prevents people from getting resources and support,” said Lund. “The stigma — whether shame around our bodies and being judged because of our bodies, or shame around our diagnoses or mental health challenges — can include fear of being judged or rejected because of it.
“I’m proud that the UCC is committed to sexuality and mental health and disability justice in our common efforts to dismantle the shame and stigma, and to help liberate people and be fully embodied people made in image of God, mind, body and spirit.”
Mental Health Sunday
Mental Health Awareness Month can be a good time for churches to consider starting a mental health ministry or expanding their current ministry, Lund said.
The UCC Mental Health Network encourages congregations to have a Mental Health Sunday on the third Sunday in May, or any Sunday that works best for congregations, to highlight the topic. A library of litanies, prayers and resources are available, and Lund encourages congregations to incorporate testimonies where people can share their story about experiencing mental health and how they got support. Resources can also be used throughout the year.
“I like to say every Sunday is mental health Sunday,” Lund added.
Churches and organizations can also consider becoming WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged) congregations to increase welcome for those facing mental health challenges.
‘Beloved children of God’
Addressing mental health concerns for youth has become increasingly important, as studies show that youth are facing higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation.
“This is important for all youth, and especially LGBTQ+ youth, particularly at this moment, when so much legislation is focused on taking away the rights of youth to have gender-affirming care,” Johnson said. “With suicide ideation and attempts much higher in LGBTQ+ youth, it’s important for those of us who care about and work with youth to be intentional in our care for these beloved children of God right now.”
Opening space for conversation is an important starting point for keeping youth safe.
“Similar to sex education, sometimes, around suicide prevention, people are afraid that if you talk about it, then people will go do it. But the truth is that youth are already talking about these, and we want to provide them the tools to stay safe,” Lund said. “That’s the opportunity we have as a faith community: to give them the tools and resources to stay healthy and safe.”
Several additional resources are available to help congregations offer education and respond to mental health issues. Lund highlighted these for individuals and faith communities:
- The 988 Suicide and Crisis Line is a new national number that offers 24/7 support from trained counselors.
- NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, can connect with churches to provide support groups.
- Mental Health America offers free online screenings.
- Mental Health First Aid can sponsor trainings for churches.
- The Trevor Project offers support for LGBTQ+ youth.
Health and wellness at Synod
The importance of mental health and wellness extends far beyond the month of May.
Those attending this summer’s General Synod in Indianapolis will have the opportunity to attend the Celebrating Disability, Mental Health, Sexuality, and Wellness Justice Luncheon on Monday, July 3.
This optional luncheon, sponsored by the Council for Health & Human Service Ministries, invites attendees to gather for a time of inspiration, education and celebration around the mind/body/spirit connection and the work to create a just, caring and compassionate world. People can select this event when registering to attend Synod.
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