October marks Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 2-8) in Canada and the United States, World Mental Health Day (October 10), and Sanctuary’s annual mental health awareness month campaign. During the month of October, we use social media to raise awareness, start conversations, and reduce stigma about mental health. In 2020, we began this campaign with a focus on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Last year, our theme was “Let’s start small,” encouraging people to start conversations about mental health using the Sanctuary app: Together Again. This year, our theme is inspired by The Sanctuary Course’s session on companionship.
Companionship, Faith, and Mental Health
Having people who journey alongside us through life is a vital aspect of wellbeing. Christians often talk about the importance of community, and we see many examples in the Bible of deep friendship and sacrificial love—models that show us how we are to live together and care for one another. The Sanctuary Course also explores research done on the benefits of companionship for those who live with mental health challenges, particularly focusing on the model of companionship developed by chaplain Craig Rennebohm.1
During our October mental health awareness month campaign, we’ll explore the five spiritual practices of companionship, talk about the gifts that people living with mental health challenges can offer communities, meditate on the story of the Good Samaritan, share prayers and reflections from Sanctuary friends and team members, feature the voices of lived experience of mental health challenges, and more.
We’ll get started with this quote from The Sanctuary Course:
Companionship offers presence rather than solutions. When someone is experiencing an issue, we tend to want to solve it for them. However, it’s important to recognize that being together with someone in the midst of their challenge—having empathy and compassion for their emotions and the space to process the experience together—is often more comforting and helpful than coming up with solutions. The art of listening, and truly hearing, is both simple and profound.
How You Can Get Involved
Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to keep up with all we’re doing this month! Our campaign is designed to be interactive and easily shareable on social media. We’d love to hear from you in the comments, and feel free to share posts and tag your friends.
If you’d like to download a few of our graphics to post on your own account, you can do so here. You’re welcome to use these graphics for your personal account or for your church or organization to help raise awareness about mental health.
You can also subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with all the latest from Sanctuary.
We’re grateful to be able to offer all of our resources for free to communities around the world. If you support Sanctuary’s work and want to see more churches equipped to support mental health and wellbeing, you can also make a one-time or recurring gift. Monthly givers join Alongside, a passionate group of people committed to helping Sanctuary make space for prioritizing mental health in faith communities.
Lastly, and most importantly, you can be a companion to someone. Use this month to reach out to people and offer care, kindness, and connection. Whether or not you live with a mental health challenge, you have important gifts to offer others in friendship and community—and we hope you have a place of belonging and support in your journey.
 For more about Rennebohm’s model of companionship, we recommend the book Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets
Leslie is Sanctuary’s Communications Director. She has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and has worked in advertising, television production, and as the Communications Director for a church in Texas. In her time working at the church, she realized one of the biggest needs in the church is for education, awareness, and care for people living with mental health challenges. Following her ministry experience, Leslie earned a master’s degree at Regent College in Vancouver.