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Lifting the lid on mental health: A call to build churches that listen

January 15 2018


One in four of us will live with mental ill health. Churches can be key spaces to develop understanding and a helpful response. Corin Pilling explores why it’s essential we build churches that listen and create a place of welcome.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”Anne Lamott”]
It’s incredibly touching when someone who seems so hopeless finds a few inches of light to stand in and makes everything work as well as possible. All of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.[/pullquote]

This quote from the writer Anne Lamott – in the book ‘Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith’ – is an insight into what it feels like to ‘push- on’ through tough times.

It offers a view of community which resonates with my own experience. For someone who has spent many years as part of an inner- London estate church, the themes of honesty, messiness and mutuality are familiar.

The phrases, ‘All of us are helped to our feet… and help others get back on their feet’ helpfully challenge the idea of a functional life coming down to our ability to make it work alone. All of us will have times we need to draw on support, and there are also times when we are called upon to offer that to others.

Equally, many of us have experiences where has not worked out as well as we’d hoped. There may be times where we or our community have failed to live up to our high ideals, or may have overlooked pressing needs.

At Livability – we believe that every community has the opportunity to become healthier as it grows in awareness of the challenges it faces collectively and by listening. With one in four of us at any one time living with mental ill health, our churches can be key spaces to develop understanding and a helpful response.

Livability’s commitment to helping churches open up positive conversations on the topic of mental health has resulted in our launch of ‘Lifting the Lid.’


It is a discussion based resource which uses an engaging Bible study format to open up dialogue and prayerful reflection on the topic of mental health. Even in the healthiest community, there can be a lot at stake in opening up about mental illness. We can sometimes be wary of sharing our experiences, or may feel that only those with visible difficulties are in need of support. Opening up positive discussions can be challenging, so the resource has been spent time creating studies that navigate this carefully.

Livability’s experience training people to run the Happiness Course has shown the ongoing appetite of churches to build well-being. It’s time to widen the conversation. Working together, churches can help to lift the lid on mental health and provide a space in which people can explore this more in their place of welcome and hospitality.

Whilst not all of us endure mental ill- health for long periods, many of us will experience this at some point during our life time. When I arrived in King’s Cross, I pictured myself as somebody there to be purely useful- I was the helper. I was in for a shock. It took a slow unraveling of this false perception to realise that I was to be a fellow traveler in need of grace and healing too. I had to go on a journey which involved letting go of seeing my community as people that needed fixing. Others had gifts to receive, and I had to learn to open my hands to experience richer connections and mutuality.

A healthy and stable life is born out of developing resilience, and this has both intrinsic and extrinsic qualities. We all have internal resources to draw from which require replenishing. External resources such as our church and community also contribute to our resilience. For these to be useful, we must be able to access them and they also need to be spaces where we are understood and involved.


‘Lifting the lid’ gently lifts explores key topics on mental health and we hope will make for more open and resilient communities. A listening community- one that is welcoming, understanding and offers ways to participate will have a significant positive impact on a person’s recovery, whether they face mental ill- health in the short or long term.

Livability is encouraging people to use the resource through the coming season of lent, or at a later date in the year. We are excited by its potential to equip us all to growing the inclusive communities we long to see.

Tell us how you find the resource by contacting us at joinin@livability.org.uk

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