10 Ways Your Congregation Can Reduce the Stigma of Mental Illness

1.  Publish or write a newsletter article on mental illness
2.  Encourage and support members of your community, who are
willing to come forward and share their story with others
3.  Respond openly to mental illnesses; recognize the ongoing stress and
sense of loss experienced by families of those with mental illnesses;
offer support, concern and frequent respite.
4.  Keep in touch with a person who is temporarily institutionalized.
5.  Become informed: stay alert to news about developments in
research and care; identify local agencies that provide information and
services in order to have it at hand when needed.
6.  Look carefully at the expressions of basic theology so as not to
blame or perpetuate the concept of sin, guilt and lack of faith as
reasons for mental illness.
7.  Recognize the role of established faith communities and clergy as
opinion setters; educate to dispel myths and allay people’s fears.
8.  Collaborate in consciousness-raising with other faiths, social service
agencies, and consumer organizations.
9.  Organize active outreach to mentally ill persons and their families
through a proper congregational committee (Bikkur Cholim)
10.  Provide space for support groups to meet.

(Adapted from Our Congregation as a Caring Community: Paint a Different Picture of Mental Illness by Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen, D. Min., FCOC, AMHA. Available through Pathways to Promise)