Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness in Churches


March 28th, 2014 is the day when the world could have more safe communities for people with mental illness. The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church is convening on 3/28 from 8:30am to 9:00pm (Pacific Time, UTC-7) Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and word is that there will be a FREE livestream webcast. See website mentalhealthandthechurch.com for more event info and if you’re local to Southern California, please come – and don’t let money be a barrier. Event hashtag = #hope4mh

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Here’s your personal invitation from the organizers:

Studies show that one out of every four adults in America will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. The first place many go for help is to their priest or to their pastor because the heart of Jesus and the Church has always been for those who suffer.

You are invited to The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a one-day event designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.

Join Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church, Bishop Kevin Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and NAMI-OC (National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County), and other faith and community leaders on Friday, March 28 for a hope-filled and inspiring event, as together we call the Church to action on behalf of those living with mental illness, equip lay and pastoral leadership, and stand side-by-side with those who suffer.

The headline on this Christian Post article, Rick and Kay Warren to Host ‘Mental Health and the Church’ Summit; Organizers Hope to Wipe Out Stigma of Mental Illness, is quite an overstatement, in my humble opinion. One event will not wipe out the stigma, as the headline suggests (or it could be read that way, I did). It will take a long sustained effort to change things, with the social stigma pervasive in societies and families, faith communities and churches alike.

I’m personally very grateful for this one influential church taking a first step to start addressing this. I’m eager to see what the second step will be, and the many steps ahead that many others will begin to take. It all starts with the first step, and I sincerely hope it’s the first of many, not only for Saddleback, but many many others.

kaywarren313postAnd, one more thing. I’ll be there in person myself. Please say hello if you can come too, I would be happy to connect. (personal disclosure: Saddleback Church is my home church)

cf. also read Kay Warren’s poignant blog post (Facebook calls it a “story”): ‘… shocked by some subtle and not-so-subtle comments indicating that perhaps I should be ready to “move on.”‘