Project for the promotion of mental health in church communities

How can mental health be made an issue for all members of a congregation? With the support of the community mental health services of Evangelische Gesellschaft (eva) Stuttgart and Difäm, interested congregations in the church district of Stuttgart are developing support opportunities for mentally ill people.

Church communities as a social network

The project for the promotion of mental health in church communities focuses on the sensitization of the parishioners for mental health and mental illness. In order to support the people with psychiatric diseases, a strong social network is to be established within the congregations so that those affected will feel at home. This can significantly contribute to recovery. The measures which are going to be offered or developed in the church communities include for example:

  • Topical church services
  • Topical series on mental health/illness in the church bulletin
  • Special book corner on the topic of mental health
  • Formation of discussion groups
  • "Singing for mental health"
  • Flyer with an overview of offers of professional assistance.

Linking secular and church services

A special concern of our DIFAEM project is the networking of congregational resources with secular offers of assistance: For parishioners it is important to know about professional secular assistance offers. Conversely, employees in secular institutions should have an eye on the offers and possibilities of the church communities, refer to them and work with them. In this way, congregations can make an important and specific contribution to the promotion of mental health and, conveying a purpose of life and hope, can provide support in situations of particular pressure.

Full-time workers and volunteers working actively together with those affected

The approaches developed in small project groups in the respective congregations vary greatly. Joint meetings are attended by full-time workers and volunteers, by representatives of the professional services, and, wherever possible, also by persons affected. Together they question existing offers of assistance. They discuss about how the existing offers could be better linked, and where specific assistance is still lacking or could be developed. Therefore, questions are asked such as: Which groups, initiatives and committed people do we have in our church communities that could be involved? With which institutions and persons could we network? How can we contribute our resources in order to accompany and support people with mental diseases and their relatives through cooperation with institutions or people from outside the church community?

The hopes and desires of people with mental diseases and their relatives are included in the preparation and composition of the specific offers. In the meetings they are motivated to contribute their own ideas.

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