The UK's largest Christian disability charity, Livability, has joined forces with Premier Mind and Soul to create new resource to help churches better understand people with mental health needs in their congregations.
The pack has won endorsements from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Justin Welby; the Bishop of London, Rt Rev Richard Chartres; director of Time to Change, Sue Baker; youth charity XLP founder Patrick Regan and worship leader, Matt Redman.
The pack was developed in response to a growing demand from churches keen to better understand mental health issues. It aims to equip churches with relevant knowledge and tools incorporating theological, psychological and medical perspectives on mental health as well as signposting them to other specialist external sources.
One in four people will experience a mental health issue each year, with 11 per cent of British women taking anti-depressant medication daily. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Christians with mental health needs have often found churches they attend are relatively ill-equipped to support them.
Welby said: "Churches have a responsibility to welcome everyone who comes to them in Christ's name, but the reality is that they don't always know how best to support people who are struggling with mental health issues. The Mental Health Access Pack will help equip churches to make God's love more visible in the welcome they offer to every person. I am grateful to Livability and to Mind and Soul for all the thought and prayer that has gone into this resource and I commend it to churches as a valuable pastoral tool."
The pack includes contributions from experts including Rev Will van der Hart, Dr Kate Middleton, Dr Rob Waller, Roy McCloughry and Jonathan Clark. It explores common mental health conditions and addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions about mental health. The pack also suggests ways that local churches can better support those struggling with poor mental health.
Katharine Welby- Roberts, an associate at Livability and the Archbishop of Canterbury's daughter, who has spoken publicly regarding her struggles with depression, said: "As anti-stigma campaigns, such as Time to Change, begin to see societal attitudes towards mental health change, the Church has begun to recognise the need to better support people with mental health needs in their congregations."
She said that churches wanted to support people with mental health problems, but did not know how.
"This can often lead to isolation or people leaving the Church because they feel misunderstood or not catered for. I believe the Church is a key untapped local resource which can support people with mental health needs; this pack is a valuable and timely resource which will help churches to do mental health better."
Will Van der Hart, pastoral chaplain at Holy Trinity Brompton and a director of Premier Mind and Soul – who will feature on the BBC's Songs of Praise to discuss the pack next month – said: "The Mental Health Access Pack responds to a critical need in the Church today, not only from the congregants but also from church leaders. Twenty per cent of clergy sick leave each year is as a result of depressive illness and almost half (47 per cent) of leaders from major protestant denominations admit to suffering from stress most of the time."
"Many Christians are unaware of the depth of isolation experienced by those with mental health issues within their churches. Sadly it often feels safer to deny you have a problem that to expose yourself to the assumption that you have 'little faith' or are being spiritually disobedient."
The pack is available online.