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Working towards wellbeing

Nouwen Network members. Photo courtesy of the Nouwen Network.

ONE person in four will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime.

Church communities have a unique role to play in Mental Health Week, 7 to 13 October, explains Jane Frazer Cosgrove, a facilitator with the Nouwen Network, a grassroots support group that seeks to raise awareness in faith communities about mental illness.

"This year's Queensland theme for Mental Health Week, "Working Toward Wellbeing", provides an opportunity to demonstrate God's love, care and compassion to those experiencing mental health concerns, and their families and friends," says Ms Frazer Cosgrove.

The Nouwen Network blog, "Out of the Depths", has resources available to help individuals and churches participate in Mental Health Week: liturgies, prayers and poems; personal stories and scriptural reflections; and art.

"A terrible outcome of mental illness is that people lose their connections with their communities," says Ms Frazer Cosgrove.

"A group of us from different churches and suburbs around Brisbane started the Nouwen Network in late 2009, with help from the then state chaplains of Lifeline, Rev Bob Harriman and Rev Dr Graham Beattie.

We named it for the Dutch-born priest and author Henri Nouwen in honour of his accessible, grassroots approach and vision – and his own struggles with depression."

Congregations can be caring communities for people affected by mental illness by raising awareness and offering friendship, encouragement, acceptance and understanding.

Together they can help challenge the stigma of mental illness, support people in times of crisis, value those who have mental health problems, link them to mental health services and provide spiritual resources that promote inner strength and faith as a comfort and support.

Church leaders can incorporate appropriate prayers in worship services, preach about mental illness, and visit hospitalised members.

They can also invite guest speakers who have experienced mental illness to their congregations, and help their people to develop meaningful relationships with those struggling with mental illness, whether it be depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders or postnatal depression.

For further details about Mental Health Week 2012 and resources, visit www.mentalhealthweek.com.au..

Join the monthly mailing list of the Nouwen Network by emailing nouwen-network@optusnet.com.au.

Jane Frazer Cosgrove is the Nouwen Network facilitator.

Photo : Nouwen Network members. Photo courtesy of the Nouwen Network.