Monday, September 2, 2013

Your small group can help people affected by mental illness

By Amy Simpson

     Most people don’t talk much about mental illness. And because of this silence, many of us have the misconception that mental illness is something rare, something that happens to unusual people at the margins of society.
     We couldn’t be more wrong. Every year in the United States, more than 25 percent of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. These afflictions include serious and chronic diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as more common problems like depression and anxiety disorders—and everything in between.
     Most church leaders have encountered mental illness in their churches. When people seek help for mental illness, 25 percent of them go first to the church. This is higher than the percentage of people who go to psychiatrists and general medical doctors. Many people are looking to the church for help, and many church leaders don’t know how to help.
     Small-group leaders are in a unique position because they minister so closely to a few people. When mental illness affects someone in a small group, either personally or as a family issue, that person brings a burden to every meeting. Small-group leaders and members may not know how to help and may respond in ways that are counterproductive. Here are some productive ways you can respond...