Session One: Introduction to Mental Illness
Session One: Introduction to Mental Illness
In this first session we begin at the beginning of the Gospels, with the birth of Jesus, the theme of the incarnation and an introduction into mental illness.

This series has been kindly authorised for use by by Imagine Christian Ministry and was written by Ian Cartwright. The full course is nine sessions or which we have four. Find out more information at

In this first session we start at the beginning of the Gospels, with the
birth of Jesus, the theme of the incarnation and an introduction into
mental illness.

Bible Verse


The essence of Luke 2:1-20, a very popular Bible story, is that God came to earth in the form of a helpless baby. We see Jesus as a vulnerable baby dependant on the love, nurture and support of his parents and then of his wider family, friends and teachers. In this story we discover that God shares our humanity with all its pain, struggle, suffering and also the hope of peace and good news.

In John 1:1-14 we read that that the word of life and light became flesh, dwelt among us, shinning the light of hope, peace and good news against the backdrop of darkness, expressed in pain, struggle and suffering.

In this course the pain, struggle, suffering and darkness we are discussing is
expressed in mental illness alongside the light of hope, peace and good news the church can bring to people who are diagnosed with a mental illness.

Watch this Time to Change Video


At the beginning of this course you will be asked the following four questions and to make a notes of your responses. The same four questions will be asked at the end of the course and the answers compared.

Group Activity

What is mental health?

Shout out answers and have someone write them down

Answer: The World Health Organisation says that mental health can be defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Mental health affects how we think and feel about ourselves and others, how we interpret events, how we learn, how we cope with life events and how we develop and sustain relationships.

True or False

There are a lot of misconceptions about mental health

Discuss if you feel the statements below are “True” or “False”.

Truth – note for leader: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Truth – note for leader: We probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem.

Truth – note for leader: 1 in 10 young people will experience a significant mental health problem.

Truth – note for leader: People with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence.

Statement 5: People with mental health problems don’t experience discrimination. True or False?

Truth – note for leader: 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.

Statement 6: It’s easy for young people to talk to friends about their feelings. True or False?

Truth – note for leader: Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.

The Bible says that the fruit of the Spirit includes joy and peace, so some might say that true Christians should not suffer from mental health problems. What do you think?

Further Reflection

Every church congregation will differ on these important issues. It’s not
vital that we all agree, but we must listen to each other. As Christians, we
are motivated to care not just for those who are currently suffering from
mental illness, but to see unity in the body as a whole. Paul reflects this
unity in 1 Corinthians 12:26 when he says:

‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.’

Being a Christian does not make a person immune to mental health problems. There are all kinds of causes of mental health problems, which we will look at in more detail each week. Just like physical injuries and diseases, mental health problems can affect anyone.

But having poor mental health does not mean that God cannot use us. In fact, a number of Bible heroes may have had mental health problems as we would understand them today; for example, the writers of various Psalms, prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, not forgetting Jonah and Elijah who both prayed for death because they didn’t feel they could go on. Each one was used powerfully by God despite their mental health challenges!

The World Health Organisation, which measures the global impact of diseases, says that only one other health concern, heart disease, has a bigger impact on global social and economic life than mental ill health.

Personal Reflection

Take a few minutes of quiet to review what we’ve heard today and think about what to do with it, giving God the space to speak to us.

Encourage people to sit comfortably and close their eyes.

Think of a time when you or someone you know has suffered with mental health problems

  • What was going on?
  • How did you feel?
  • How do you think Jesus feels about them?
  • What can you do to make a difference?


Lord of the excluded,
Open my eyes to those I would prefer not to see,
Open my life to those I would prefer not to know,
Open my heart to those I would prefer not to love,
And so, open my eyes to see where I exclude you.
Iona community