Creating Caring Communities Around Mental Illness

Date posted: Thursday 10 March 2022

On February 26, nearly 150 lay leaders from around the Saint Paul Area Synod gathered for a morning of fellowship and learning at the synod’s annual Tool Kit for Congregational Leaders event. About 20 of the morning’s attendees chose to attend a workshop presented by the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), on creating caring faith communities in Minnesota. Attendees represented many congregations from around the synod, and together learned some basics on mental illness, including that one in five people live with a mental illness, the most common being anxiety, and the second most common being depression.


We also learned five important things each of us can do to make Minnesota a better place for people who experience a mental illness:

  1. Shift how we see and interact with people with a mental illness. We must work to name and challenge the stigmas and discrimination that exists.
  2. Use respectful and accurate language.
  3. Resist disrespectful language in the media.
  4. Know the common symptoms of mental illness.
  5. Create communities of hope and support.


This fifth point (working to create communities of hope and support) was the focus of this workshop. Presenter Kay King, an adult community educator for NAMI Minnesota, gave the church leaders in attendance many resources to take back to their congregations to continue the dialogue. Here are some concrete examples to present to church council and pastoral leadership as ways the congregation can be more inviting and welcoming to those experiencing mental illness or caring for a loved one with mental illness:

  • creating a mental illness support group
  • creating a book or movie study with the theme of mental illness
  • incorporating articles or social media posts that raise awareness for mental illness
  • having brochures out in the church or providing mental health resources at a larger health fair
  • creating a care committee that seeks to support those living with mental illness through meal delivery, babysitting, house cleaning, providing a listening ear, etc.


The Saint Paul Area Synod was pleased to offer this important topic at this year’s Tool Kit with the help of a mental health grant. We hoped to raise awareness about mental illness as well share strategies for creating a congregational culture that is welcoming and safe for those experiencing mental illness or caring for a loved one with mental illness.


NAMI is a great resource for any congregation looking to provide education and raise awareness of mental illness. Click here to learn about NAMI Minnesota. Here is the organization's mission:

NAMI Minnesota champions justice, dignity, and respect for all people affected by mental illnesses. Through education, support, and advocacy we strive to effect positive changes in the mental health system and increase the public and professional understanding of mental illnesses.


Through the synod’s mental health mini-grant program, congregations can receive funding to support projects, events, and educational opportunities around addressing mental health. Click here to learn more.