Monday, October 10, 2011

World Mental Health Day: Prayers and reflections

World Council of Churches - News


For immediate release: 10 October 2011

"Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, in all societies, from
the boy soldier in Sierra Leone traumatized by years of bloody civil
war, to the mother affected by HIV/AIDS. Therefore it is crucial for
the churches to challenge the stigma attached to mental illness," the
Rev. Kjell Magne Bondevik reminds the churches.

Bondevik spoke at a service of morning prayer dedicated to World
Mental Health Day on 10 October. The chapel service was hosted by the
World Council of Churches (WCC) at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva,

Bondevik is moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on
International Affairs, president of the Oslo Centre for Peace and
Human Rights, a minister of the Lutheran Church of Norway, former
prime minister of Norway and a staunch advocate for promoting
acceptance and engagement with mental health issues.

For the prayer service, the WCC Health and Healing (Link: )
programme invited Bondevik to share his reflections to commemorate
World Mental Health day, where he stressed the need to raise public
awareness, promote open discussions on mental disorders and enhance
community involvement and investments in prevention and treatment.

Bondevik is known for his courage and resilience when he admitted his
suffering from depression while holding office as the prime minister
of Norway in 1998. His decision not only brought him positive support
from many but also played a role in challenging the stigma attached to
the mental illness.

"Fighting stigma around mental health – and creating more openness –
is important first of all for people with mental health problems, but
also for the society around. If people come earlier to the health care
personnel with their problems it will be easier and cheaper to help
them," said Bondevik.

He called for a consistent response to improve the environment and
facilities available to those suffering from mental illness. "It is
our common responsibility and challenge together to improve the
situation for the people that suffer from mental diseases also in
developing countries, where the economical resources are scarce," said

"To give priority to the care for people with mental illnesses, we
must expand the knowledge about mental illnesses; we must strengthen
the integration of these people in the society and reduce the risk of

Dr Manoj Kurian, WCC programme executive for the Health and Healing
programme, thanked Bondevik for his message, saying, "We must commit
to greater engagement with the issue of mental health. We need to
promote a contextual and affirming interpretation of our holy
scriptures. As faith communities we need to combat stigma and affirm
the dignity of all those suffering from mental illness."

More information on WCC's work on health and healing (Link: )


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