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What is a WISE Congregation?

WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged) is a designation for congregations who are committed to being sensitive to the challenges faced by the millions of Americans with brain disorders or mental illnesses.

The goal of obtaining the WISE designation is to openly communicate that we offer support, acceptance, and respect to each person, and to provide information and education that helps reduce the stigma around mental illness.

The scope of this initiative includes, but is not limited to, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, suicide, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, grief, substance abuse and other addictions, etc. We care about both those who may be suffering from these disorders and their caregivers.

WISE congregations DO

  • offer support, acceptance, and respect to each person
  • Create a safe environment for people to share their challenges and seek support
  • Provide information & education
  • Serve as advocates in our church and community at large to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and brain disorders

WISE congregations DO NOT

  • Provide treatment or other recommendations that should be appropriately addressed by a trained professional
  • Ask anyone to participate or share anything that they do not want to
  • Assume that participation in any event implies anything other an interest in mental health
  • Share anything outside a gathering without explicit permission (with exception of immediate danger to self or others, in which case an appropriate mental health professional or emergency service will be contacted)

Helpful resources

Where to turn - a pdf document of information about crisis intervention and local support

UCC Mental Health Network - http://mhn-ucc.blogspot.com/


Thoughts for today

Mental illnesses are among the most stigmatized health issues in our society. Myths and stereotypes abound (from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts).

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • family history of mental health problems

Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact: The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.

Myth: I can't do anything for a person with a mental health problem.

Fact: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference. Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment. Friends and family can be important influences to help someone get the treatment and services they need by:

  • reaching out letting them know you are available to help
  • helping them access mental health services
  • learning and sharing the facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that isn't true
  • treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else
  • refusing to define them by their diagnosis or using labels such as "crazy"

More articles about being WISE


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