Livability – the disability charity that connects people to their communities – have launched ‘Lifting the Lid’ today. For churches, it’s a free study resource to help explore the topics of emotional and mental wellbeing, using the Bible as a guide.
Lifting the lid is intended to help churches engage with the mental health challenges faced by those in their communities. It has been created with small groups in mind, drawing on well-known Bible stories to open up discussions on a key topic.
Churches can make an important contribution to mental illness sufferers
With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem in the UK each week, Livability sees churches as key to supporting and resourcing their communities effectively.
Whilst there are always challenges in funding and training for consistent provision, many churches are doing important and effective work in mental health. A report last year referenced the effectiveness of church mental health work amongst young people and also how Christian initiatives can reduce the burden on the NHS or social services, serving a public good.’ (Theos).
How Lifting the lid helps churches
The aim with ‘Lifting the Lid’ is to help churches to create listening communities that are welcoming, understanding and offer ways to participate.
‘Even in the healthiest community, there can be a lot at stake in opening up about mental health. People can sometimes be wary of sharing their experiences, or feel that only those with visible difficulties are in need of support. Opening up positive discussions can be challenging, so time has been spent creating studies that navigate this carefully.’ Says Corin Pilling, Community Engagement Director at Livability.
In sharing Biblical examples of those who encounter ongoing struggles, the studies offer opportunities to share experiences and explore new perspectives. Comprised of 6 studies, each session offers concrete ways to support people in both church and the neighbourhood who might be experiencing mental- ill health.
A resource supported by the Diocese of Lichfield
The study has been trialled in the Lichfield Diocese by David Primrose – Social Responsibility Officer. David approached Livability to develop the studies and has been championing their use since their piloting.
Already passionate about the topic of mental health in churches, David found himself unable to identify a suitable course for a colleague. After approaching Livability’s Head of Church Partnerships – Mat Ray – with the idea to develop some resources, David was soon road-testing a new Livability course in the diocese.
I remind everyone that those present on the course are people who are going to change the culture of our churches. ‘If one in four of the general population experiences mental health issues, then in our churches it should be a higher proportion than that. We should be a place where people with mental illness feel comfortable and belong. It is good to challenge any participating church “Don’t we want to be the sort of Christian community where we draw in, give support, love and care for people who have mental health issues in their lives?”’
The study was created by Mat Ray, Livability’s Head of Church Partnerships who states:
‘At Livability, we’re committed to helping churches increase their ability to be welcoming and healthy places. The majority of us will experience mental distress at some point in our lives and our community response will be key to our recovery.
We believe the studies offer Biblically – based and hopeful response we can all subscribe to. Emotional and mental ill health is an area that many of us lack confidence in. Whilst churches should never seek to offer medical or professional advice to mental health sufferers – they are in a great position to lift the lid on these areas positively. We have good reason to be hopeful and we have an important part to play in raising awareness.’
Content on the Mental Health has been drawn from the Mental Health Access Pack, which was jointly developed by The Mind & Soul Foundation and Livability.
A resource for Lent
Mat Ray believes the studies will increase the participants’ ability to engage with greater confidence in these topics. He states:
‘It can often be difficult to explore these topics in a way which feels safe, and the studies offer a positive way to do this. Many people have experienced marginalisation as a result of their ill-health and we want to change this. This season of lent offers a great opportunity for us to reflect, and face the challenges of life, as Jesus demonstrates. Our hope is that studies will open up discussions, and in hearing each other’s experience, we can learn to respond positively and find hope in the midst of these challenges.’
How to get the resource
The guide is available from Livability’s web site at http://www.livability.org.uk/resources/lifting-the-lid. It is free to download, has six sessions and is designed to be run over six weeks, led by someone who has spent time becoming familiar with the material. Each session is designed to last 1.5 hours.