The church is in every community. Not even Tesco or Mcdonalds can claim that. With such a presence, churches have a vital role to play in building communities that are inclusive and welcoming. But if we don’t look at the whole person, at the mental health and wellbeing of those in our community, then people can find themselves on the outside.
Livability will be at Greenbelt to explore themes of community and wellbeing. As a Livability Associate I support the charity’s work to raise awareness for mental health in the UK Church.
I believe that the beauty of ‘good community’ is that it becomes a place where people are able to be fully themselves. For me, the local church is an important ingredient in creating such a community experience. But with one in four people in the UK impacted by mental health illness every year, church community engagement work really must strive to understand and engage with the needs of the whole person.
Wellbeing is about taking a holistic look at health and happiness. It’s about physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. If a church runs a food bank for its community, it is meeting a physical need, but also needs to understand the emotional and mental impact on that person of needing to go to the foodbank in the first place.
So often, those with mental health problems will be less visible to the community. People will isolate themselves, feeling that they are a burden or unworthy of community and love. People can get lost in the crowd, afraid to stand out or nervous of the reaction they will get from people to their mental health.
In my view, society isn’t geared towards looking after our mental health. We are driven towards projecting an image of how well we are doing. There is very little room to be entirely yourself. Social media can be a great place to honest about life, but also has the opposite effect; encouraging people to create an image of a better self.
With this in mind, I believe that churches must take the opportunity to engage with the reality of people’s lives and create a space in each community where people can be fully and honestly themselves.
We all have mental health. When we understand that, there is less of the ‘us and them’ narrative. Churches should be breaking down barriers and building awareness. By doing so, we will make community far more livable for many vulnerable and isolated people in our society.
Livability and I will host three major programme slots this year, on wellbeing, dementia and mental health. Join in the community conversation with Livability this year at Greenbelt or on Facebook or Twitter.