Welcome to the UCC Mental Health Network!


Who are those with a mental illness?

We are your brother, your sister, the man across the street, the person next to you in the pew.

In a given year, one in every four people (26.2%, according to the National Institute on Mental Health) is dealing with a mental illness, also known as a brain disorder.

Here's what Rosalynn Carter says:

"People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action."

What is your congregation doing to widen the welcome and support those with mental illness in your midst? What are you doing as an individual?


Why widen the welcome to all?

Jesus reached out to people who were marginalized, to those who were ostracized, and to those who were the outcasts in the eyes of society. Jesus’ compassion and embrace exemplified what His followers ought to do: reach out to the least, the lost and the lonely. The way of Jesus was comfort, not ridicule; it was love, not indifference; it was empathy, not hostility. The way of Jesus is our spiritual calling. It is the way we are to acknowledge and affirm the worth of everyone, especially those who are deemed less than, not enough, and not deserving of respect. Jesus’ way is to overturn the customs that put the lowly down and to lift up those who have been shut out. It is our spiritual calling to follow Jesus that leads us to widen our welcome.


Partner with us
  • While the diagnosis and treatment of serious mental illness is undergoing a revolution, the discrimination against persons with mental health concerns is still a fact of life. 
  • We believe that education through our churches is one key to changing this discrimination. 
  • We believe that networking together within the UCC and with similar networks in other denominations and faith groups will help us in our efforts. 
  • We believe that advocacy for individuals and for social and legislative change will improve the life of many. 
  • We believe that through our own policies and within our own ministries we can model for the rest of society how to be caring congregations and a compassionate denomination. 

The UCC Mental Health Network exists to provide resources so that individuals and congregations may engage in these ministries.

Read the latest news from the UCC MHN board of directors

Be sure to see the Access Sunday resources on the UCC Disabilities Ministry website and the Mental Health Sunday resources on our Mental Health Sunday page.

Grace: A Reflection by Karl Shallowhorn

“But to each one of us grace has been

given as Christ appointed it.”

Ephesians 4:7


By Karl Shallowhorn 

My journey with bipolar disorder began when I was a freshman in college. Like many of my peers, I was on my own for the first time. I took this opportunity to engage in drinking and drug use, however unlike others, this behavior served to create major problems for me: failing grades, a host of medical issues, and eventually a sense of disconnection from all those around me.

Everything came crashing down on Friday, February 13, 1981. I found myself in my dormitory room, experiencing delusional thoughts of being the devil and having auditory hallucinations of my mother calling out to me as I attempted to take my life.

My parents drove through the night to bring me home. Upon arriving I was immediately admitted to the Buffalo General Hospital Community Mental Health Center. This was the beginning of an eight-year cycle of repeated hospitalizations at local institutions, including the Buffalo Psychiatric Center (BPC), which housed many of the area’s most severely mentally ill individuals.

For the next seven years, I continued to abuse substances, and despite being in intensive outpatient treatment, I still struggled. I experienced profound periods of hopelessness and despair. At times, I was so depressed that I could barely get out of bed or take care of my daily needs.

But despite all of the issues I faced I never blamed God. If anything, I prayed fervently for deliverance from my destitute condition. There were even times when I would call my former pastor, Rev. Philip Smith, who had confirmed me as a teenager. Rev. Smith ministered me while I was in the hospital and offered words of prayer that served to soothe my tortured soul.

I vividly recall an occasion when I was a patient at the BPC. I had taken the Bible I had received as a confirmand with me. One day I couldn’t find it. After searching for it I found it destroyed in the shower area. This truly broke my spirit. I knew, at this time that I had to find a way out of my downward spiral.

I continued to attend outpatient counseling and during one particular session my counselor gave me the option of going to rehab, an addiction support group meeting or inevitably end up back in the hospital. I chose the meeting. This was a turning point for me. After seeing a young woman celebrate 30 days clean I was imbued with a sense of hope. And it was this hope that has carried me ever since.

Since that time in1988 I have been substance-free and have been able to develop a lifestyle of recovery that has enabled me to experience a life beyond my wildest dreams. I have been fortunate to have developed a healthy support system, including my wife Suzy and my daughters, Sarah and Lillie as well as my extended family. I have worked in both the addictions and mental health field for over 15 years and have dedicated my life to advocating for those who so often have no voice.

But just as importantly, my spiritual foundation has grown stronger. Shortly after I got clean, I joined my church, Pilgrim-St. Luke’s and El Nuevo Camino UCC. It was here that I learned about the importance of service, both to God as well as others.

The one thing that I must consider when looking back on my life is how I have been a beneficiary of God’s grace. Despite my shortcomings, character defects, and the mistakes I’ve made along the way, I have been shown God’s infinite love in more ways than I can count.

When I think back to those days of struggle and fear of the future, I realize that what I have in my life is not entirely of my own doing. Yes, I have worked hard in my recovery, and it hasn’t been easy, but I cannot deny God’s hand in my recovery. It is through my ongoing relationship with God that I am able to face life on life’s terms. And for this I am entirely grateful.

How have you experienced God’s grace? Feel free to leave a comment below.

The Journey: the UCC Mental Health Network Blog

Welcome to the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network (UCC MHN) blog, The Journey. Our weekly posts will explore mental health and addiction through the lens of our Christian faith. We will write about how our personal experiences affect our lives and how our spirituality supports our journey. Everyone who is living with a mental health or addiction disorder, or has a loved one who is affected by a mental health challenge or addiction, is on a journey. Together we can connect with each other and share some ways to travel the path of hope and wholeness.