‘Mental Health’ Social Principle

TAMPA, Fla. — General Conference, the highest policy-setting body of The United Methodist Church, adopted a new Social Principle, “Mental Health,” during its meeting here this spring. The new principle will be included in ¶162. “The Social Community."

Mental Health

The General Conference approved a new Social Principle. A bulletin insert is available at “Mental Health.”

“Mental Health” declares, “No person deserves to be stigmatized because of mental illness.”

The rationale for “Mental Health” stated that persons with mental illness and their families have a right to be treated with respect on the basis of common humanity and accurate information.

The new Social Principle points out that persons with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence or preyed on by others. “When stigma happens within the church, mentally ill persons and their families are further victimized,” it states.

The Social Principles, according to their preface in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, are “a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions.”

The Social Community

The Social Community (¶162) has the most subparagraphs of any of the six primary Social Principles categories. Other categories are Natural World, Nurturing Community, Economic Community, Political Community and World Community.

According to the Social Community, the rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons.

A sentence in the explanatory paragraph for the Social Community was modified by General Conference. It now states, “We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. (The modification is in bold type.)

Subjects addressed in ¶162 include rights of “Racial & Ethnic Groups,” “Religious Minorities,” “Children,” “Young People,” “the Aging,” “Women,” “Men,” “Immigrants” and “Persons with Disabilities.”

Also included are “Sexual Orientation,” “Population,” “Alcohol & Other Drugs,” “Tobacco,” “Medical Experimentation,” “Genetic Technology,” “Rural Life,” “Sustainable Agriculture,” “Urban-Suburban Life,” “Media Violence & Christian Values,” “Information Communication Technology,” “HIV & AIDS, Health Care”and “Organ Transplantation & Donation.”

“Mental Health” was adopted on a consent calendar by a vote of 889-20. The Church & Society legislative subcommittee approved it 65 for, none against, with one non-voting member.

The new Social Principle “Mental Health”follows:

Mental Health

The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Unfortunately, mental health eludes many in our world resulting in considerable distress, stigma and isolation.

Mental illness troubles our relationships because it can affect the way we process information, relate to others and choose actions. Consequently, mental illnesses often are feared in ways that other illnesses are not. Nevertheless, we know that regardless of our illness we remain created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

They are much more likely to be victims of violence or preyed on by others.

No person deserves to be stigmatized because of mental illness. Those with mental illness are no more violent than other persons are. Rather, they are much more likely to be victims of violence or preyed on by others. When stigma happens within the church, mentally ill persons and their families are further victimized.

Persons with mental illness and their families have a right to be treated with respect on the basis of common humanity and accurate information. They also have a right and responsibility to obtain care appropriate to their condition. The United Methodist Church pledges to foster policies that promote compassion, advocate for access to care and eradicate stigma within the church and in communities.

—Adopted by 2012 General Conference

Editor’s note: A bulletin insert of the new Social Principle is available for downloading at “Mental Health.”

Mental Illness Awareness Week is observed Oct. 7-13. This special observance is an opportunity to learn more about serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

National Day of Prayer for People with Mental Illness is Oct. 9.

Letter to the Editor