Learn, Share, Grow
A mental health toolkit for clergy and lay leaders
May 23, 2022

Welcome to Learn, Share, Grow, a mental health toolkit designed for faith leaders, like you. Each quarter, we offer resources and tips to help you care for the mental health and wellbeing of yourself and the people you serve in your congregation and community.

Faith leaders play an important role in the lives of those living with mental illness. According to MentalHealth.gov:
“Faith and community leaders are often the first point of contact when individuals and families face mental health problems or traumatic events. In fact, in times of crisis, many will turn to trusted leaders in their communities before they turn to mental health professionals. When leaders know how to respond, they become significant assets to the overall health system.”

Thank you for all that you do in caring for those in your faith community. If you'd like to share a story about your congregational mental health ministry, ways you show hospitality to those living with mental illness, self-care tips, and other mental health topics, please let us know.

Wishing you continued blessings on your ministry,

Amy McNicholas, Illinois Manager, Faith and Health Partnerships

Anya Gordon, Wisconsin Manager, Faith and Health Partnerships
Bringing Mental Health to the Forefront:  Tips for Faith Leaders
Talking openly about mental health in your house of worship can play an important role in destigmatizing the topic and creating a welcoming and affirming space for those living with mental health conditions.

Among the ways faith leaders can bring mental health to the forefront:

  • Preach about mental health, including the facts and common myths.
  • Incorporate specific prayers for those living with mental illness into prayers at worship services.
  • Include information about mental health in church bulletins or newsletters.
  • Invite local mental health experts—including those who have experienced mental illness—to speak with your congregation.
  • Support the development of a trauma-informed community.
  • Organize meetings, dinners, or other gatherings for members of your congregation or community to have conversations about mental health.

Highlighting the topic of mental health during worship services and other congregational gatherings can not only help raise awareness of the issue, but also encourage congregants living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions to seek help.


See other tips: Download flyer to share.
Become a Faith and Health Companion!

Many people turn to clergy and lay leaders before seeking care from a mental health provider. Advocate Aurora Faith and Health Partnerships invites you to participate in Listen. Love. Connect., a three-part virtual education series designed to equip clergy and lay leaders – deacons, elders, congregation board members, ministry staff, and others - to walk alongside congregants living with mental illness and substance use disorders.

By completing this education series, you can become better equipped to:
  • Notice signs of mental distress,
  • Confidently respond to those in crisis,
  • Understand the connection between trauma, resilience, and faith.

Those who complete the Listen, Love, Connect series:
  • Receive a Faith and Health Companion Certificate,
  • Become eligible for a microgrant up to $1,000 to implement a mental health program in their congregation,
  • Receive support through quarterly check-in meetings.

Schedule for Education Series: Listen. Love. Connect.

Tuesday, June 14, 10:00-10:30: Virtual information session

Saturday, July 16, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. 
Mental Health First Aid - teaches you intervention skills to help someone in a mental health crisis. Instructors: Amy McNicholas and Shonie Purnell. Two-hour pre-work is required.

Saturday, August 13, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 
Companionship - teaches you the five core practices of responding to people through relationships – walking alongside someone in their journey toward healing and wholeness. Instructors: Amy McNicholas and Anya Gordon.

Saturday, September 10, 9:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m.
Trauma, Faith, and Resilience - a basic introduction to help you understand trauma and how faith plays a role in building resilience. Instructors: Amy McNicholas and Anya Gordon

Quarterly Cohort/Check-ins: October 2022, and January, April, and July 2023.

'...one of the hardest sermon series I’ve ever preached, but one of the most rewarding.’

By Rev. Shane Moore, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Yakima, Washington

Many times I have ideas for a sermon series but do not have the courage to preach the series. For a whole host of reasons I talk myself out of the idea. It could be due to not feeling knowledgeable enough on the topic to not wanting to offend anyone in the congregation. But in the fall of 2016, I knew that all of those reasons weren’t enough to prevent me from preaching on mental health.

The idea started with my own struggles around mental health. The previous year I had two crippling panic attacks. Many changes were happening in life. My wife and I were trying to buy our first home, at the time we were parents to two young girls and I was trying to juggle two part time ministry positions. I talked with friends about their struggles and what they did for help. I began seeing a mental health professional and openly admitted to church members that I was working with a mental health professional.

It was during one of those open and honest moments that I knew that I had to speak about mental health from the pulpit. I was sharing with a church member an experience of catastrophic thinking that I recently had and the church member looked at me and said, “Wow, even my pastor struggles with mental health! I’m not the only person.” With this statement, I was convinced that I needed to preach a on mental health.
Terms to Use and Avoid When Talking about Mental Health and Substance Use
Courtesy:  CDC

When you use these preferred terms in your sermons, writings, and conversations, you help destigmatize mental illness and the disease of addiction.

Drug/Substance Use

Instead of this…
Drug-users/addicts/drug abusers
Persons taking/prescribed medication assisted treatment (MAT)
Persons who relapsed

Try this…
Persons who use drugs/people who inject drugs
Persons with substance use disorder
Persons with alcohol use disorder
Persons in recovery from substance use/alcohol disorder
Persons taking/prescribed medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)
Persons who returned to use
People who smoke

Mental Health/Behavioral Health

Instead of this…
Mentally ill
Mental defect
Suffers from or is afflicted with [condition]

Try this…
People with a mental illness
People with a pre-existing mental health disorder
People with a pre-existing behavioral health disorder
People with a diagnosis of a mental illness/mental health disorder/behavioral health disorder
Psychiatric hospital/facility
Faith leaders are invited to a Virtual Lunch & Learn:

May 26, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Sponsored by F.A.C.E.S. of Memphis and Emotional Fitness Centers of Tennessee

Special Guests:
  • Dr. Altha Stewart, Senior Associate Dean for Community Health Engagement
  • Director, Center of Youth Advocacy and Well-Being, UTHSC
  • Melanie Funchess, Curriculum and Training Development Coordinator
  • UTHSC, Center for Youth Advocacy and Well-Being
  • Vonyale Montgomery, Chief of Security, Baptist Health Science University

F.A.C.E.S. (Family Advocate Center and Empowerment Services) and the Emotional Fitness Centers of Tennessee, a faith-based approach to mental health, work to inform, empower and engage families with children and youth facing mental, emotional, and behavioral health challenges.
Resources for you and your faith community
Click on each resource to download, print and share
Job Posting: 
Half-time Faith and Mental Health Specialist

Are you interested in creating supportive environments for people living with mental illness? Advocate Aurora Faith and Health Partnerships has an exciting job opportunity available for you!

We are looking for a half-time Faith and Mental Health Specialist to do training, education, capacity building, and consultation with faith leaders and congregations in Illinois and Wisconsin. The position requires an active clinical license (LCSW, LCPC, etc.) and the candidate must be comfortable working across diverse religious traditions. Candidates of color are highly desirable for this role.

Join our team to help increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and promote mental well-being so people can live well.
Advocate Aurora Health
Faith and Health Partnerships

We work side-by-side with faith communities to promote health equity by mobilizing the transforming power of social connectedness and spiritual wisdom.

Our core belief: Drawing on the wisdom of our religious traditions and the best social and public health science, we believe that positive, mutual relationships and the intentional practice of faith are at the heart of what creates equitable health and well-being for individuals, congregations and communities.

Learn more about our work in English and Spanish.
We blend the strengths of Advocate Aurora Health with the strengths of your congregation to improve the health of those living in your community.