Last night the BBC aired a documentary called ‘Girls on the Edge’ looking at three young women who have been sectioned under the mental health act and are cared for in inpatient units hundreds of miles away from home.
The impact this has on, not just the young people with the mental health problems, but on the families that are left to cope with their absence.
So how can churches support a family when a young person is sent far from home to get treatment for their mental illness?
Firstly it’s about facing up to the practical challenges. Family support is vital for young peoples’ recovery; and yet with so many sent miles from home the cost of visits can mount quickly. Consider raising money to cover the costs of travel expenses or overnight stays so that families can have more time together.
Secondly, extend offers of meal rotas to try and make life easier on family life and increase the amount of time they’re able to spend with one another. If it’s one thing the church is good at – it’s a meal rota – and they can be as invaluable in this situation as they are for new parents!
Thirdly, consider ways you can offer support to the siblings of a young person in hospital. It’s inevitable that much energy is taken up when parents have a seriously ill child and this can have a real impact on those left behind. Try to get them involved in the youth group, or offer them a mentor so that they have someone who is wholly invested in them.
Fourthly, offer to provide babysitting for other children to that parents are able to get some time to themselves on occasion. Whether this be allowing parents to go on a date night, out with friends or to a church social event. It can be vital that parents are able to get support from their own friends or members of the church.
And finally, work out ways to make church as accessible as possible. Whether that be providing youtube videos or recordings of the sermons so they don’t miss them or utilise small groups to encourage parents and the wider family to be able to stay in contact with church and feel part of the community. Keep praying for the family even if they aren’t able to attend church very regularly.