Faith provides multifaceted benefits for mental wellbeing. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states, “Faith and spirituality can be a very helpful component of someone’s recovery from mental illness.” But what does providing spiritual support for mental health look like—especially for those struggling with serious and life-altering conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder?
The Well Community has been answering that question since it was founded in 2002. Executive Director Alice Zaccarello shares, “From the very, very beginning, the Well has been faith-based—based on the faith that all people are made in the image of God, with God-given dignity, worth and capacity to love and be loved.” It started as a church outreach to people in the Oak Cliff community suffering from illnesses that often prevented them from pursuing their faith in community, and from the early days, the Well’s ministry included a weekly worship service.
Joel Pulis, Founder of the Well Community, explains, “We were guided by an ethic of gracious relationship between God and one another.” Since the start, he says, the Well has emphasized the emotional and relational aspects of pursuing mental health stability and has viewed these things as spiritual needs that could be addressed in an intentionally spiritual community. “Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions!”
The Well Community provides these solutions both through its programs and through the environment it cultivates for its members. Together, these opportunities to pursue faith and mutual encouragement provide spiritual support for mental health.
NAMI explains, “A place of worship is a safe space for people where they can feel welcomed and have an instant sense of support and community, but how they are treated within this environment is crucial to that feeling of security.” Sadly, however, many of those living with serious mental health conditions are hard-pressed to find acceptance in a church.
Many churches don’t speak openly about mental illnesses, and misconceptions about these diseases often exist even in loving faith communities. As a result, those dealing with these conditions often feel unwelcome at church services or as though they can’t be themselves and worship freely. And many just stay away even though they want support in pursuing their faith.
The Well Community meets this need by providing a weekly worship service, Thursday Night Life. There, members sing and pray together without fear of judgement—a rare blessing for many. As one member shares, “I have been to a number of organizations that help people, but this is the only one that offers church, prayer and Bible study.”
Daily Devotions and Connections
Each day the Community Life Center is open, members can participate in devotions, giving them additional opportunities to be encouraged by God’s Word and through each other. Led by volunteers or by members, devotionals are regular touchpoints that provide spiritual support for mental health.
Recently several Well members have taken turns sharing their insights from the Bible. Noticing that some members were asking intrusive questions of others, one day Pastor Ed Botting taught that mutual respect is an important aspect of the kind of love God expects of us. He encouraged fellow members to see how love provides the bridge between faith and actions, reminding them of Christ’s words, “Beloved, love one another.”
The Blessing of Community
As Joel says, “We are formed in community; thus, we can only be transformed in community! And that’s the mission of The Well.” To fulfill that mission, the Well Community not only provides programs that address spiritual needs but seeks to foster an environment where members receive ongoing support from caring staff, volunteers and one another.
Kenny Cheshier, Executive Pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church, explains that this kind of spiritual support is important because it can help those who live with mental illnesses and often face stigma understand that God truly loves them. “They want someone to listen to them. …. They want someone they know will care for them and be there for them. … They want someone to spend time with them. … They want someone to be part of their life.”
Members come to the Well knowing it’s a place where they can be themselves and where others care about them—powerful forms of support for people who often face unkindness and discrimination. When one is struggling, another will come alongside him or her with a kind word, a hug or a prayer. “I love when my friends here at the Well pray for me,” one member shares.
Retreating With One Another
Twice a year, the Well holds an overnight spiritual retreat for members, enabling them not only to escape the city and the everyday challenges of dealing with serious mental illnesses but to strengthen their faith together. As one member says, “that just helps you focus and get away from it all for a while.” Retreats give members rare opportunities to relax and enjoy God’s creation, as well as take part in devotions and time for prayer. These times away also include plenty of fun and laughter that reinforces the community that members share with one another all year long.
The Well Community is the only faith-based organization in the Dallas area that exclusively serves individuals dealing with serious mental illnesses. Your donation will help the Well continue to provide spiritual support for mental health to those who often struggle to find a welcoming faith community.