Billings First UMC offers mental health support during the holidays

Billings First UMC offers mental health support during the holidays


Submitted by Carole Jones
Member, First United Methodist Church, Billings, Montana

Billings First United Methodist Church, Billings Montana, has been intentionally making their church a welcoming place. They have identified an area that needs some focus and love. Those persons that are dealing with mental health illness, either with loved ones or in their own life, need our support, love and understanding.

The Mental Health Friends Network was formed in 2015 in time for the May national push for greater public awareness of mental health issues and the stigma that surrounds the entire issue. Since that time the committee has worked to provide educational opportunities, group interaction time and weekly prayer support. This holiday time, support from the committee and the pulpit is a multi-faceted outreach.

Holiday Parties are hard for families with members in treatment. How do you explain the absence of a family member? What do you put in those jolly Christmas Card messages? The MHFN is providing several materials that addresses these and other issues: The book, When Holidays Hurt: Finding Hidden Hope Amid Pain and Loss by Bo Stern, will be available for anyone who is looking for strategies and help during this time, a brief flyer with helpful resources that offer help and support is available, the weekly Prayer support group, and as always a business sized card with Crisis numbers on it are all offered. There is a MHFN Phone friend list for people who are not in crisis to call and talk.

First United Methodist Church annually hosts a hospitality table during the Thanksgiving Parade filled with hot chocolate, candy canes and an invitation to join in any of the upcoming Advent plans. Dec. 2 we host a free training on Mental Health First Aid for Adults Assisting Young People, a training developed by Mental Health First Aid USA. This is part of our ongoing educational component. Our hope is to get ahead of the issue by addressing mental health early on Dec. 3.

Another annual and much looked forward to event is the family Hanging of the Greens. The congregation gathers to prepare the church for Advent! All are invited to help. Dec. 19, 7 p.m. Rev. Kama Hamilton Morton offers a very special service “Blue Christmas/The Longest Night” This is scheduled close to the longest night of the year. This is for anyone who may be struggling or just looking for a time of quiet in a time of prayer, silent, music and reflection.

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