This series has been kindly authorised for use by homegroups.org.uk 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 https://imaginechristianministry.co.uk/
This week we are exploring stigma and discrimination and a New Testament story to see how Jesus reacts to someone who is stigmatised by his community.
The story of Zacchaeus, as with most of the Bible passages we’ll be looking at, is a familiar one. The theme we are exploring is how Jesus looks upon those who are outsiders, stigmatised by their community.
Why doesn’t Zacchaeus fit into his community?
What is Jesus’ response?
Can you think of a time when you felt like you didn’t fit in, or felt like an outsider? What happened? Did things change? How?
People with mental health issues often don’t feel like they fit in. As individuals and as a church family, how could we respond?
Why doesn’t Zacchaeus fit in?
We know that he is short, he is a tax collector, people call him a sinner, and he’d cheated people.
How does Jesus respond?
He stops and notices Zacchaeus.
He allows Zacchaeus to interrupt his journey.
He asks Zacchaeus for help, giving him status and self-esteem.
He comes to Zacchaeus’ house, bringing the holy into his existing life rather than demanding Zacchaeus change immediately.
Jesus values Zacchaeus in a way that the community does not, and he gives Zacchaeus ways of re-thinking his value to the community. These are all ways we can think about moving from stigmatising people to valuing them.
Video and Discussion
This Time to Change video helps to capture the essence of personal stigma and discrimination from a mental health perspective.
How can we remove some of the stigma of mental health? (Think back to how Jesus interacted with Zacchaeus.)
How can we value people, especially people who may feel like they don’t fit in?
What can we do to help people feel valued?
Can you come up with practical and specific ideas?
Stigma and discrimination are likely to have an impact on a person’s mental health and their recovery journey and can cause additional hardships to people experiencing mental health issues. They should always be born in mind. Stigma and discrimination includes both attitudes of rejection and stigma towards people with mental health issues due to their diagnosis, and also as a result of wider inequalities that may be present in society as outlined in the strands of inequality below.
Strands of Inequality
These six strands are sometimes referred to as “The Six Equality Strands’.
They are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.
1. Mental health and age. People of all ages can experience mental ill health, although the ways in which this is experienced and the things that may cause or contribute to it may be age specific.
Some mental health issues are more common at different stages of life.
1 Young people for example, are more likely to begin using self-harm as a means of coping with feelings of distress. 2 Schizophrenia is much more likely to emerge in young people between the ages of 16 and 25 3 Dementia can be a particular problem for older people.
2. Mental health and gender Men and women can differ in the way they experience mental distress. For example, Women are more than likely to experience depression than men, Men are more likely to die of suicide. Women are more likely to experience eating disorders, Men are more likely to experience misuse alcohol and drugs. Men and women are roughly equally likely to get a diagnosis of schizophrenia, The average age of the onset for schizophrenia for men is earlier than for women.
3. Mental health and disability Mental health issues are considered a disability when there is a significant impact upon a person that lasts for longer than 12 months. This means they are protected by law. Other forms of disability or long-term physical illness can make a person more likely to develop a mental illness particularly anxiety and depression.
4. Mental health, race and ethnicity One mistake we often make is to assume that people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds all share the same struggles with cultural difference. In fact, there are many differences within BME communities, just as there are between the majority white population and other diverse cultures that live in England.
The common factor BME communities in England share is the experience of being treated as different and therefore experiencing discrimination, which places additional pressures on people. Institutional racism and inequality of care within the mental health care system have been identified as major problems. In addition, language and cultural difference also make it more difficult for people to access help. We need to understand that concepts about mental health are different in different cultures – therefore we can’t assume that everyone shares the same ideas about mental health issues.
5. Mental health and religion or belief ‘Religion’ and ‘belief’ are terms that encompass a rich and diverse experience of spirituality. They range from traditional religious practices to secular practices that recognize a spiritual dimension.
Evidence suggests that religious belief and spiritual practice are protective factors in maintaining positive mental health and promoting recovery.
6. Mental health and sexuality People in LGBT (Lesbian, gay, Bisexual and Transgender) communities are more likely to experience mental ill health issues than other groups and may be less willing to seek professional help. A range of difficulties can contribute to mental ill health, resulting in feelings of isolation and low self-esteem in LGBT people.
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 felt left out—stigmatised, different for whatever reason.
What was going on? How did you feel? Now think of a time when you felt valued. What happened? How did you feel? Now think of someone who may be struggling to feel valued and included in your church or community. Who are they? 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
Ian is the founder of Imagine Christian Ministry. He has been an ordained Methodist Deacon for almost twenty years in various churches around the country. He has also served as an active lay person in numerous roles. He currently serves as a mental health chaplain for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust He has personal experience of mental illness having been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and burnout. Imagine Christian Ministry is built on many years of experience, continual ministerial development and a life of his ongoing Christian discipleship.