As all families are unique, so a Mental illness member affects each one differently. The impact of a mentally challenged child and the families varies depending upon the nature of the child’s abilities and disabilities; the strength and resources of the family, and the social support system that is available.
The family place under additional stress emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually. For many families, coping with a mentally challenged child can lead to a “crisis of faith”; which can resolve positively by increased respect for the multiplicity of God’s creations; or negatively by the opinion that the child is a punishment from God.
The experience can lead to either turning to or turning away from God and the church. Parents often struggle to find a satisfactory religious meaning for their child’s condition. Although some comfort by the belief that the handicap willed by God, others strongly reject this notion.
Few parents today seem willing to believe that they or their child are the objects of divine punishment. The majority affirms that God is present in their suffering; and will help bring some good out of their pain and loss.
There are some points of Care and counseling to the parents of mentally challenge
a) Taking initiatives
Usually, the family will not seek out to pastor. Ministers must take the initiative. They are the only professional who can do it. It accepts practice for the minister to call at home, offer to help, and express concern. Families expect this from the minister and usually not offended.
b) Create a supportive network
Neighborliness and pastoral listening help parents face the situation positively- sharing their traumatic experience; somehow knowing God’s involvement in their pain. Appropriate pastoral care is continuous over years, giving parents, the handicapped, and other children, a full place in the church.
By offering undemanding friendship it provides a family ‘extension’ a network of natural relationship; enabling each family to reckon with and face future changes within a supportive group.
c) Assurance of presence
The role of the pastor as an advocate, counselor, educator; and emotional-supportive presence can be invaluable to retarded individuals and their families. Most families do not want or need therapy. More than anything else, they need to feel accepted, understood and cared about by the spiritual community and God.
Ministers are representative of both. They reflect the spirit of the congregation and personalize the love and compassion of God. Families need to know that God is with them. The very presence or absence of the minister of God gives a profound message to families.
d) Offering understanding and support
The minister should not be nervous in approaching mentally challenge families. The minister should tell the family honestly what he/she has heard and why he/she is there. But many people including ministers are so uncomfortable with the notion of mental illness. They avoid any mention of it because of the myths and misconceptions about mental illness.
When the minister (people) visits the family, they inquire about all the family members escaping the person who is mentally ill. This type of attitude limits friendships and increases feelings of isolation. These are a subtle and profound form of rejection and extremely painful for the clients, therefore they should avoid them.
e) Provide care and confidentiality
In some cases, the family may refuse to trust the minister to handle their feelings with care and confidentially. But even if they refuse the minister’s help; the interest and concern expressed by the minister or pastor are likely to appreciate.
Once the minister takes into the family’s confidence, what the minister is to the family is more important than what he or she may do. The family needs to feel that the minister is willing to participate in their experience and is with them in seeking God’s presence.
f) Using spiritual resources
Once the pastor or minister has gained enough insight into the family’s condition; and their feeling about it to feel positive that it understands; the tools of ministry such as prayer, scripture, and ritual can use.
Once the pain of the family hear and they know it hear. They should then be ready to hear the words of the minister and God.
g) Create openness and respect to Mental illness
A kind of non-judgmental openness and unconditional respect for the family on the part of the pastoral caregiver makes them feel it is safe to share their deeper and more intimate feelings about their problem.
The kind of person the minister has in the past in other situations; the key, how they perceive by the family and whether they feel secure enough to open.
h) Educate the congregation
One important aspect of the minister’s caregiving to families of the mentally ill is leading the spiritual community into having an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance of the mentally ill and their families.
Religious communities are subject to the same misunderstandings, fears, myths; and prejudices as the general public. The stigma attached to mental illness will prevail until people educate otherwise.
As the spiritual leader, the minister’s approach can educate the congregation. Through public statements, teachings, and examples, an environment can created in which the mentally ill and their families feel welcome and part of the fellowship.
i) Help Mental illness to recognize the unique gifts and joy of the child
Parents need encouragement to affirm the unique gifts and joy they find in their retarded children. Motivate the parents to accept the child’s capacity and not to compare with other children. Help the parent to develop a positive attitude toward the child.
j) Create an inclusive community of Mental illness
Feelings of shame or inferiority are common in mentally challenge families. Parents may be highly sensitive to the curiosity, aloofness, or pity shown by others.
One important thing that a pastor can do for the families is to be an agent of inclusion; seeking to widen the boundaries of congregation and community and to enable their active participation in the family of God.
k) Create recreational programs and support groups by volunteering
Through the church program/ plan, the pastor can also provide special social-recreational programs; and support groups for the mentally ill using members of the congregation as volunteers.
This type of program will reassure the families that their loved one’s infirmity recognizes as legitimate and worthy of care. It can remove many barriers to the concerned person and their families.
Some parents may need referrals to other professionals or helping agencies.
Conclusion (Mental illness)
The most common problem that is face by mentally ill children and their parents is not the diseases that they have but the social stigma that they face from society.
So to overcome this problem, a pastor or a counselor needs to educate the people and create a good social network that will enable everybody to participate and accept in society.