Had a meeting today with two people from UPENN (one a prof) who are working to break down barriers for those with Serious mental illness (SMI). They have found that folks with SMI are quite likely to acknowledge spiritual or religious beliefs and identity. And yet, these folks say there are two serious roadblocks for finding support. First, the church does not seem particularly open to folks with SMI. Second, mental health professionals are either unsupportive or downright negative about the faith/beliefs of those with SMI.
Actually, the UPENN folks said they had more hope that the church would be open to developing policies and systems for supporting the mentally ill than they had hope in influencing the mental health professionals that paying attention to one’s faith is an essential part of their healing and rehabilitation.
One of the church’s challenges is that they need to develop strategies for the long haul. If the church is going to do well with someone with bipolar or schizophrenia, then they need to realize how best to pace the response. I think some churches are willing to throw lots of resources at the person in an effort to try to solve the problem. And if the person is not progressing as they had hoped, then the interest in helping dies off. Hence you have folks with SMI making serial connections with the churches in their area.
Any thoughts on what a helpful church strategy to help someone with SMI be a key member of the community? What kinds of help should the church offer for the long haul?
I suppose we ought to start with making it okay to admit struggles with mental illness…