The Mental Health Task Force at UPC formed in 2011 as a group of church members with personal and professional interests in raising awareness about mental health in the congregation and wider community. Since their initial gathering inspired by Dot Cansler, the Mental Health Task Force has organized annual adult education classes, programs for youth and families, and support for those touched by mental health issues. The mission continues, as UPC strives to live into the pledges made through the WISE covenant. If you are interested in learning more or joining the task force, please contact Ashley Wilson.
Becoming A WISE Congregation for Mental Health:
We, the people of University Presbyterian Church, know we are graced by the gifts, stories, and experiences of all our members, including those living with mental health challenges such as mental illness, brain disorders, addictions and trauma. We know these challenges can profoundly affect our feelings, thoughts, and behavior. We care about the whole person: body, heart, mind, and soul. We affirm the deep and constant movement of God’s Holy Spirit, seeking to bring us to the fullness of life. We believe that all people are beloved by God. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” He made no distinction between various members of society; he included all people in this commandment.
Sometimes individuals with mental health challenges such as mental illness, brain disorders, addictions and trauma feel cut off from God and from their brothers and sisters in faith. It is our calling to communicate to all individuals that God loves all of us equally, even when we do not feel the love of the Holy Spirit in our lives. People with mental health challenges have gifts to offer our faith community, and we want everyone to feel fully welcomed, included, supported and engaged in the life, work and leadership of our church.
We pledge to be a welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged (WISE) congregation for mental health.
Call to action:
We pledge to create a welcoming environment for people with mental health challenges and their families:
- We pledge to educate ourselves and offer educational opportunities to help our whole congregation understand the issues surrounding mental health challenges and the implications of this covenant.
- In an effort to reduce social stigma, we pledge to examine our own attitudes and preconceived notions about mental health and to confront our own ingrained biases.
- We pledge to actively welcome those with mental health challenges into our faith community and provide a safe environment in which people can tell their stories and share their journeys.
We pledge to include people with mental health challenges in the life, work and leadership of the congregation:
- We commit to recruiting, nominating and supporting people with mental health challenges to serve on teams and in leadership positions within the congregation.
- When calling clergy and other staff, we pledge to be open to hiring people with mental health challenges.
We pledge to support people in our congregation who have mental health challenges and their families:
- We pledge to reach out to those suffering from brain disorders, mental illnesses, addictions and trauma in the same way we reach out to those living with other physical illnesses.
- We pledge to offer companionship and compassion for individuals and families living with mental health challenges.
We pledge to engage with other organizations that work at the intersection of mental health and faith/spirituality/religion:
- We pledge to welcome and encourage outside groups who deal with mental health challenges to use our church facilities.
- We pledge to engage with other organizations to find opportunities to be in shared mission, ministry and advocacy. This includes working with our church’s Mental Health Task Force and our local inter-faith coalition, Faith Connections on Mental Illness.
~ Adopted by the Session on September 10, 2015
Resources during Pandemic
The Mental Health Task Force compiled an updated list of resources, with local, state, and national organizations ready to offer support. There are resources for children, teens, adults, the LGBTQ community, addiction services, and local crisis centers. Please refer to this list, and share it with your friends and neighbors.
2012: “Mental Illness and the Church’s Response”
2013: “Mental Health, Movies and My Faithful Response”
2014: “Responding in Faith to Common Issues” (focusing on the mental health of children)
2015: “Exploring Alzheimer’s and Dementia”
2016: “Understanding Addiction”
2012: The task force organized a group to raise funds and participate in the NAMI Walk.
- Dr. Jodi Flick offered a presentation for parents, “Adolescent Suicide.”
- The Session approved the WISE Covenant and pledged to become a welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaging congregation for people with mental health challenges.
- Dr. Kathleen Lapp offered two presentations for parents, “Mental Health and Teens.”
- An adult education class discussed The Price of Privilege and challenges facing our youth, such as academic pressure, the social scene, addiction, materialism, and creating a healthy sense of self.
- A combined youth and adult education class discussed adolescent depression and A Relentless Hope.
- Mental Health First Aid: Saturday, January 21, 2017, 8:00 am-5:00 pm. Mental Health First Aid is a program that introduces participants to the risk factors and warning signs of mental health and addiction problems, builds an understanding of the importance of early intervention, and identifies common supports.
- Screen Time and Stress: Sunday, February 18, 2018, 6:00-7:30 pm. Dr. Christian Mauro, with the Duke Child and Family Study Center, presented on this topic and included time for discussion. Think “screen time” means television and video games? It does–but it also refers to computers, cell phones, and other technologies that are so prevalent in our daily lives. Come learn about the effects the constant influx of technology and access to unlimited information can have on the mental health of our children and youth and discuss what we can do to help them navigate this tricky new world! This event was hosted by the Mental Health Task Force and the CYM Youth Sub-Committee.