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Mental Health Inclusion Ministry...The Mission Field Just Outside Your Door


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In this keynote presentation from the Mental Health Ministry in the Local Church conference, Dr. Grcevich discusses the need for intentional outreach to families impacted by mental illness, and introduces seven barriers to church attendance for children and adults with common mental health conditions and their families.

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Mental Health Inclusion Ministry...The Mission Field Just Outside Your Door

  1. 1. Mental Health Inclusion Ministry The Mission Field Just Outside Your Door Stephen Grcevich, MD President and Founder, Key Ministry Presented at Ironbridge Baptist Church Chester, Virginia November 19, 2016
  2. 2. Building a bridge between two worlds…
  3. 3. The mission field just outside your door Among U.S. children and teens… • 22% identified with at least one mental disorder • 11% have been prescribed ADHD medication • 8-12% of teens experience anxiety disorders • 13% identified with developmental disorders • One in 68 are diagnosed with autism – the majority of average/superior intelligence!
  4. 4. The mission field just outside your door Among U.S. adults in 2014 • 43.6 million experienced mental illness • 6.6% experienced depression (8.2% of women) • 18.1% experienced at least one anxiety disorder • 4.1% had ADHD (1.7% are considered severe) • 9.5% had a mood disorder • 9.1% had a personality disorder Source: National Institute of Mental Health
  5. 5. A different way of thinking about mental health ministry… How do we connect churches and families impacted by mental illness for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ? • Why mental illness is different from other disabilities • Why church participation is difficult • What would a model for mental health inclusion ministry look like?
  6. 6. How we understand disability in the church Disability Ministry Special Needs Ministry
  7. 7. Is a disability a disability if someone is disabled some of the time?
  8. 8. How might church culture and the environments in which we “do ministry” cause disability? “It is our culture that disables.” “When one is disabled, the problem is not really that they have impairments and social skill deficits. The issue at stake is that they live in an ‘ableist’ culture that rarely affords them the space or opportunity to make their unique contribution to society and does not lift up the value of choosing them as friends.” Ben Conner - Amplifying Our Witness (2012)
  9. 9. Seven Barriers to Church Participation for Children and Adults with Mental Illness and Their Families  Social isolation  Anxiety  Social communication  Capacity for self- control  Sensory processing  Stigma/reluctance to self-identify  Family history of mental illness
  10. 10. Social isolation as a barrier… HOW DO FAMILIES FIND YOUR CHURCH IF THEY DON’T CONNECT WITH FAMILIES ATTENDING YOUR CHURCH? • Kids may be less desirable as friends • Less involvement in extracurricular activities • Financial burdens from lost productivity, treatment costs • Parents struggle to find child care • The experience of mental illness is often socially isolating
  11. 11. Anxiety as a barrier… CORE DIFFERENCE: PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY OFTEN MISPERCEIVE RISK IN UNFAMILIAR SITUATIONS • Social anxiety • Separation anxiety • Agoraphobia Fears specific to church: • Fear of scrutiny • Performance worries • Anxiety results from lack of faith
  12. 12. Social communication as a barrier… WHAT CHALLENGES MIGHT SOMEONE ENCOUNTER AT CHURCH IF THEY STRUGGLE TO PICK UP ON SOCIAL CUES? • Body language • Tone, inflection of voice • Facial expressions Church-specific challenges: • Small groups • Small talk • Bullies • Unfamiliar situations
  13. 13. Self-control as a barrier… EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING WEAKNESS IS A COMMON FEATURE OF MENTAL ILLNESS • Impulse control • Problem-solving • Emotional self- regulation • Following directions • Difficulty delaying gratification We often refer to the resulting behavior patterns as “sin.”
  14. 14. Sensory processing as a barrier… KIDS AND ADULTS WITH SENSORY PROCESSING DIFFERENCES MAY EXPERIENCE AS AVERSIVE NOISE, LIGHT, TOUCH AND SMELLS THAT OTHERS FIND ENGAGING Challenges for kids: Pick up and drop-off times High energy worship Challenges for adults: Greeting times (hugging, handshakes) High-energy worship Multiple conversations in close proximity
  15. 15. Stigma as a barrier… WHAT THEN IS WRONG WITH THE “MENTALLY ILL?” THEIR PROBLEM IS AUTOGENIC; IT IS WITHIN THEMSELVES. Jay Adams • Mental illness defined as sin, or a parenting problem • Widespread perception they’re not welcome at church • If it’s not a disability, why would disability ministry serve them? • Kids and adults DON’T want to be treated differently
  16. 16. Parents with mental illness as a barrier… THE APPLE OFTEN DOESN’T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE! • Multigenerational issue • Parent who couldn’t go to church have kids with no experience of church • Kids depend on parents for transportation • Parents struggle with executive functioning too! • Inconsistent attenders?
  17. 17. What might an effective ministry strategy look like? • A mindset, not a program • Applicable to churches of all sizes, denominations • Designed to minimize the need for persons served to self-identify • Resources devoted to inclusion in ministries, activities most critical to spiritual growth • No church can serve every person affected by mental illness, but every church can serve more children and adults with mental illness!
  18. 18. Taking the next step… Explore seven strategies for promoting mental health inclusion. Join an ongoing group of colleagues seeking to promote mental health outreach and inclusion. Connect with OutsideIn Ministries and Key Ministry