How to Care for Those with Mental Illness:
New courses provide practical help
– By Hayley Lukabyo
When friends confide about their struggles with a mental health challenge, it’s not always easy for Christians to know how to respond. Beyond dropping off a casserole, what practical ways can we offer genuine love and Christian care?
Considering almost half of all Australians experience a mental illness in their lives, the question is both timely and relevant, reflecting an ever-growing need for Christians to have biblical and practical ways to address such challenges. Sarah Condie, co-director of ADM’s Mental Health and Pastoral Care Institute (MHPCI), notes that “with mental health challenges on the rise – whether depression, loneliness or more difficult illnesses – Christians are increasingly faced with questions of caring more deeply for those in our midst.”
Several new short courses, then, have been created with these questions in mind. Co-sponsored by the MHPCI and Mary Andrews College, a variety of upcoming short courses focus on equipping church members, ministry staff and leaders to care for those in their congregations facing mental health challenges:
Mental Health 101 on 27th March
Mental Health Masterclass on 3rd April
Times and fees vary and enrolment has filled up quickly for this term; however, some spaces are still available through: www.mentalhealthinstitute.org.au/shortcourses
“There is great encouragement when a group of like-minded people gather around a topic that is significant for them, and that is why I’m excited to be a part of the short courses developed here”, says Kerrie Newmarch, ADM Director of Church Engagement and Training. “These new courses provide a great opportunity to develop our understanding and compassion of areas for well being, which can be difficult.”
The Mental Health and Pastoral Care Institute takes a holistic approach to addressing various challenges and aspects of mental illness, combining elements of pastoral care with current research in psychology.
“Our starting point is God’s loving concern for the spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and social well being of all”, says Rev. Dr. Keith Condie, co-director of the MHPCI. “We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks into all life contexts to provide grace and encouragement, and to alleviate distress.”
Mental Health 101 provides participants with an overview of common mental health disorders, how the mental health system works in Australia, the role of the church and how to respond to a crisis. Dr. Condie will conduct the course, which is open for all church members seeking to understand the needs of those within their communities.
Dr. Condie, alongside Jackie Stoneman, Director of Studies at Mary Andrews College, will also run a Mental Health Masterclass for ministry staff and pastoral care workers, which provides a theological and practical framework for navigating mental illness and church life with wisdom.
Rev. Stoneman will teach People Matters, introducing specific and practical skills for all church members who want to build effective and caring relationships that honour Christ. Grounded in biblical principles, the course deepens participants’ understanding of people and knowledge of what makes healthy relationships while carrying out God’s work in caring for others.
To find out more about the Institute’s ongoing short courses, or other new initiatives such as the Building a Safe and Strong Marriage course and the Raising Resilient Parents course, visit the website here.