May is National Mental Health Month and May 18-20 is the Weekend of Faith for Mental Health. I ask you to join in thousands of other congregations across the country to raise awareness about the important topic of mental health, with special attention to addiction. Our nation is in the midst of an epidemic; drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under 50. Addiction is common, and can go hand-in-hand with mental illness. People often turn to substances to treat emotional pain. Sumter shares such problems with every community in our nation.
One in five Americans experience a mental health issue every year. Mental health and addiction know no boundaries - gender, race, religion, or social status. Breaking down barriers to treatment, decreasing stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, and supporting our brothers and sisters is vitally important. I believe the faith community is an important partner in this battle.
Why is it important that your congregation participate in this weekend? Our fellow citizens who suffer with depression, addiction and other results of mental illness certainly fall among those whom Christ called "the least of these". Shame about mental illness and addiction prevents conversations with pastors and other members of faith families. Ironically, people close themselves off from the love, compassion and strength that only Christ and His church can provide. I know you agree that our churches need to open our hearts and congregations to those who otherwise may struggle alone and without the help they need - medical and spiritual.
What I am asking you to do is this: on Sunday, May 20th, will you include a moment in your services to talk about how those with mental health and addiction issues need the help of men and women of faith? This can be a part of your sermon or a "minute for mission" or any way you deem best to include it. Below you will see some speaking point outlines, which have been prepared by some local pastors and which may be of help. You will also find a brochure prepared by the Santee-Wateree Community Mental Health Center and the Sumter Police Department which includes information about resources available for those who are seeking help.
If you will participate in the Weekend of Faith for Mental Health, will you please let me know by calling 803-436-2578 or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe this is a problem that calls for people of faith to bring their best gifts of love and grace. I hope I can count on you. Please participate on May 20th.
Download a copy of the Mayor's full letter to churches here.