Mental Health Matters

Jesus is the hope and peace of the world.

It’s a wonderful truth to absorb, isn’t it? Yet, many people struggle with mental health issues that affect every aspect of their being—even their ability to experience the hope and peace of Jesus.

One in five people will experience a mental disorder at some point in their lives. While these illnesses of the brain can affect anyone, as people of faith, too often we have blamed people who suffer with mental illness for a lack of faith. Discussion around mental illness has been noticeably absent from most places of worship. We can easily pray for those experiencing a physical challenge, but those who are struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses remain invisible. So what can we do?

GET INVOLVED

If you are interested in becoming a congregation where Mental Health Matters, please contact Karen Lowe, Clergy Care Associate, klowe@baptist.ca.

HOW YOU’RE HELPING

If your church is already supporting people who struggle with mental health we would love to hear what you are doing.

IN NEED OF HELP

If you are struggling with a mental health concern, please contact one of the services listed in the “Where do I find help?” section.

BUILDING SAFE SPACES

If your church would like to become a safe place for people with mental health challenges, Queensway Baptist Church, Brantford, has some experience to help.

Mental Health Resources

The links below are provided to assist you in learning more about mental health, and include both Christian and secular sources. We believe that the expertise of both types of sources can be extremely helpful as you craft your church’s response. We also have links to blogs, podcasts, and articles produced by members of our CBOQ family who are not mental health professionals.

The organizations listed below are personal recommendations based on the experience of members of the Mental Health Working Group. However, CBOQ has not reviewed or assessed them and as such is sharing them for information purposes only. Please take the time to review the accreditation and competencies of each resource as required.

How do CBOQ churches help?

If you need help:

Where you can find help... in Ontario

If you are having a mental health crisis visit the Hospital emergency room. In a non-emergency make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

For non-emergency situations:

Where you can find help... in Quebec

If you are having a mental health crisis visit the Hospital emergency room. In a non-emergency make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

For non-emergency situations:

For CBOQ Pastors in need of help

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact your local emergency number.

Pastoring can be a lonely and stressful vocation which can put pastors at a higher risk of burnout and other mental health crisis. A recent article written for CBC news outlines the pressures that are on clergy and the risks that pressure creates. The article provides a helpful overview of why it is important for pastors to be mindful of their mental health.

If you are a CBOQ pastor and you are reading this because you are feeling overwhelmed in your role, please don’t walk through these days on your own. Karen Lowe, Clergy Care Associate, is here to journey alongside you as you find the resources you need to address your challenges. CBOQ pastors also have access to an Employee Assistance Program through the benefit plan that enables you and/or your family to access counselling during difficult seasons. You can contact them at 1-800-387-4765 (English)  or  1-800-361-5676 (French)  or visit:  www.workhealthlife.com. We also highly recommend that all pastors have a spiritual director to meet with monthly. Karen Lowe would be happy to help connect you to a spiritual director.

Becoming a Safe Place

Queensway Baptist Church (QBC) in Brantford, Ontario is a safe place for people facing mental health challenges, but it wasn’t always so. QBC’s journey began in 2008—the year that Pastor Deane Proctor was diagnosed by his family doctor with major depression. As a result of this diagnosis, Deane, now Lead Pastor at QBC, began to personally see firsthand the many ways in which the Christian church was unprepared or unwilling to confront this important subject in a healthy way. (Hear Deane share his story.)

Following a 2013 sermon, in which Deane made a public declaration of his own diagnosis, QBC began to embrace the vital importance of ministry to those living with mental illness. One particular ministry that was born over the next 18 months was a peer-to-peer support group which still continues meeting today. This group was formed with the guidance of the local CMHA branch who recognized that for all the programming they offered, they were not in any way speaking to the spiritual realities surrounding a mental illness diagnosis. At the same time QBC was also advised that if they were going to start a group for those with diagnoses, one should also be started for the parents, spouses and friends of those living with a diagnosis.

How QBC did it:

As Lead Pastor, Deane was keenly aware of those who had, following his own disclosure, admitted that they too lived with a mental health diagnosis. While confidentiality prevented him from sharing these stories openly, an invitation was made publicly regarding a new support group after which Deane made sure that the appropriate people received personal invitations. A similar strategy was employed for the second group which attracted numerous family members of those living with a mental illness. To ensure the group’s privacy they would meet every second Monday evening in the privacy of Deane’s office.

The next step was to create boundaries to ensure success. These boundaries included:

  1. No diagnosing of one another
  2. No hijacking or monopolizing the group discussion time
  3. Assurance that verbal participation was voluntary
  4. Each group meeting would begin with a check-in whereby participants each briefly reflect on the last two weeks by highlighting a “low” and a “high” over that period of time as well as indicating where on a scale of 1-10 (10 being excellent) they would place their mental health at that time. (Some nights, due to member crises, the group never got past the check-in stage which was completely fine with everyone and provided the opportunity for loving, peer-to-peer ministry).
  5. Finally, the group instituted a “safe word” which when spoken by any participant meant they were being triggered in some way and that the topic of conversation needed to change immediately.
  6. The meetings always ended with prayer over what had been shared as well as anything being anticipated in the lives of the participants (e.g. med. changes, doctor appointments, etc.).

The biggest challenge was (and remains) good, solid, biblical materials on the subject of living with mental illness and seeking God in the midst of all that a diagnosis means. The groups at QBC were fortunate to find one study in particular by author Amy Simpson and published by Christianity Today, “Troubled Minds: Responding to Mental Illness” that was very helpful in establishing a biblical framework around the peer support being offered.

While Deane lead the group for the first two six-session studies, he slowly handed off leadership to the group itself once a safe community had been established and leaders had been coached and readied. Today QBC’s mental health support group is going into its fourth year with deep friendships and mutual support having become foundational to its regular members.

If your congregation would like to explore establishing a similar mental health support group and would like to hear more about this process, please contact Pastor Deane Proctor at Queensway Baptist Church in Brantford any time at deane@queensway.org.

The CBOQ Mental Health Matters webpage was compiled by the Mental Health Working Group. If you are interested in working alongside this group please contact Karen Lowe at klowe@baptist.ca or by phone at 416-620-2944.