Christians living with mental illness have few places where they can be truly open about themselves. At secular support groups they can’t comfortably talk about the importance of God in their lives. At church groups they fear they will be judged if they talk about their mental illness. Sometimes they fear their condition will be considered a spiritual rather than medical problem.
Three years ago author Marja Bergen recognized this and created a peer-support group called Living Room (www.livingroomsupport.org), a place where people with mood disorders could freely discuss their faith and their mental health issues together, knowing they will be accepted and loved the way they are. The group met at her Brentwood Park Alliance Church in Burnaby, British Columbia and it was soon evident how very important it was to participants. In the words of one, “Living Room is the only place where I can talk openly about everything that’s on my mind.” People can truly be themselves here, whether they happen to be up or down.
Marja believed this was too good an idea to keep for her church alone. She published manuals and a website. News about this new church ministry is now spreading and is quickly gaining recognition as an effective model for faith-based support for people with mood disorders. The Living Room ministry is now promising to go global.