If you’ve discerned that it’s the right time to begin a mental health ministry in your parish, and that you are one of the right people to start it, what should you do next?
At the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, we believe every parish ministry exists in communion with the local and universal Church. Your pastor is your leader, and you should start by reaching out to him. You should collaborate with him to assemble a team of volunteers and define the roles and responsibilities you will each fulfill.
The team will serve as “prayerful companions” for fellow parishioners experiencing mental illness, provide spiritual support to families and provide parish-wide education on the subject of mental illness in order to breakdown the stigma and discrimination people with a mental illness all too often experience. It’s important to remember that this is a ministry of accompaniment, not mental health care or treatment and the responsibilities of the team do not include medical, clinical, or behavioral support.
Training and Preparation
When you have a team, it’s important to consider team training. Some elements can vary according to the specific needs of your parish. Two good training courses to consider are a Mental Health First Aid and the on-line course titled “Introduction to Catholic Mental Health Ministry” offered by the University of San Diego.
Also, your diocese may have specific requirements for volunteer ministers who work with vulnerable populations, such as background checks or additional training. You must abide by any requirements your diocese may have.
What You Can Do Right Now
To get started, become an active member of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers today for full access to all our training resources. You’re also most welcome to attend our free monthly webinars, where we walk you step-by-step through what you need to begin a mental health ministry. We’ll also answer all your questions, so that you can discern further if God is calling you to this particular service at this time.