People going through mental health issues are often surrounded by stigma within the church. With the help of a grant from Resonate Global Mission, a church plant in British Columbia is seeking to change that pattern in its local community.
“Mental health is something that I’ve always wanted to have on the radar for our church,” said Samuel Lee, a pastor at The Tapestry: Mundy Park.
Samuel started looking for ways to equip his church to help each other both mentally and spiritually. “I want us to shift some paradigms and change some perceptions that people might have when it comes to mental health issues,” he said.
An idea surfaced to host a Mental Health First Aid Course at the church. Samuel knew of standardized courses provided by the Canadian Mental Health Commission, but he also wanted to integrate faith and spirituality into the teachings.
The Tapestry: Mundy Park applied for a Resonate Community Engagement grant earlier this year, and, thanks to Resonate supporters, the church hosted a course in March and brought in a therapist with pastoral experience to help with the integration of faith and mental health.
Practicing First Aid
The course was designed to help the church become a sanctuary for people with mental health struggles and to equip church members in responding to mental health crises. Samuel received positive feedback from the 30 attendees and was happy to hear how the course helped them.
For example, “after taking the course, a church member disclosed that two of her grown sons had attempted suicide when they were younger,” said Samuel. “She told me how helpful the course was for her understanding of what was going on back then and how to respond even now.”
A week later Samuel had the opportunity to respond to a mental health crisis when a woman came into the church, having noticed that the church sign still advertised for the Mental Health First Aid Course.
She needed someone to talk to, and Samuel invited her into his office. She shared her story, telling him she was a believer and was experiencing anxiety and paranoia surrounding difficult circumstances in her life.
Connecting through Faith
After listening to her and verifying that she had a connection to a mental health professional, Samuel asked if he could pray with her. She agreed, and afterward Samuel sensed that her mindset had improved.
“After we prayed, she seemed much better,” said Samuel. “Of course, there’s no immediate cure—she was still a little bit worried, but she thanked me. And I said, ‘Hey, we’re here if you ever need to come back and chat.’”
Resonate seeks to provide church plants like The Tapestry: Mundy Park with the resources they need to care for and engage their communities. The Mental Health First Aid Course helped Samuel realize the importance of having that kind of training and being able to intervene in crucial moments. He hopes this is just the beginning for talking about mental health issues and supporting people who are walking that journey.
“People are becoming more aware and more open to talk, and that to me is such a win—when people can talk openly and feel safe enough to do that,” said Samuel. “I see this course as one part of a larger strategy to have the church be a safe place and a place of healing for people.”