Parish Inclusion & Mental Illness

Survivors of abuse by clergy and any other perpetrator often are left to manage acute or chronic mental illness. Many survivors of abuse by perpetrators outside the Church setting seek comfort and belonging with parishes or other connections to the Church. Sometimes survivors of clergy abuse are able to do so, too.

Study after study show how including persons with mental illness in any social group or congregation can be difficult — for both individual and group, regardless of how much goodwill there may be on both sides.

Resources do exist to help.

One such resource is Key Ministry, which was founded in 2002 to help churches minister to families of children with hidden disabilities, but evolved to serving churches seeking to “become more intentional and effective in ministry with children, teens and adults impacted by mental illness, trauma, and developmental disabilities and their families.”

Key Ministry provides “knowledge, innovation, and experience to the worldwide church as it ministers to and with families of kids with disabilities.” It provides support to Christian churches of all denominations.

While you or your parish may not need to reach out for Key Ministry consultation, their website is rich with free videos and resources, in particular a Mental Health Resources page containing links to “video, articles and topical blog series designed to help minister with persons with common mental health conditions.”

On the website you’ll also find “a free, downloadable mental health ministry planning tool designed to accompany Mental Health and the Church,” their resource book. There are also lists of recommended books, Christian-based mental health ministry organizations, research,  and sermons addressing mental illness. There are social media resources and a compilation of stories from families affected by mental illness.

If you’re someone managing an acute or chronic mental illness, these resources may be the perfect way to invite your spiritual support group or local pastor and fellow parishioners to become more intentional about making you and many others who share your challenges.

If you’re in ministry, these resources may be a great starting point for finding informed ways to include everyone in parish activities and services.

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