Much has been written about the need for boundaries when supporting people with mental health issues. But I don’t think we hear much about what having such boundaries means to such people themselves. I will describe a bit from a point of view I had at one time. This will be followed by words from church leaders, as copied from Christianity Today.



Many of us living with mental health issues find it hard to realize why supporters need to set boundaries. Although I knew I had a mental illness, I never saw myself as being so different from others. So, when a good friend didn’t want to spend time with me I wondered why she didn’t treat me like her other friends. What did I do wrong? Was I really that unlikable? I can’t describe the depth of my pain.

Eventually I “think” I figured it out – though I’m not sure. I am different. Among other things, I had an unhealthy attachment to her and talked far too much. If only my friend could have explained how she needed this boundary for her own protection, and maybe mine as well! Or might her explanation have made me feel worse?

People living with mental health problems often have a greater need for love and attention than the average person. We may be drawn to those who treat us kindly and really seem to care. The trouble is that when we overdo seeking their attention both we and our supporters can get hurt. Those who support us have others in their life who need them. How can they look after them if we burden them to the point of burn-out? Because, yes, we can do that to them if we’re not careful.

Trouble is, in dealing with our issues, we are not always able to control ourselves.

Our supporters must set clear boundaries. We should welcome such boundaries, because I don’t think any of us would want people to get tired of us and start avoiding us.

Great problems can arise if boundaries are not in place. If we get messages that everything is fine with the amount of contact we have when it isn’t, we are in trouble. It’s up to our supporters to set boundaries. They will need to take time explaining why this is necessary – very gently and clearly. It will be important to do so in a way we can hear, understand, and respect. Then we can more easily be reminded when we violate those boundaries.


“It is easy to view people with BPD as hopeless cases. Yet there is hope. Churches and their leaders can help these persons function at a higher level, manage their emotional turmoil, and disrupt the congregation less. Here are several principles to use:

“First, set firm limits on tolerable behavior. Giving into demands for excessive time-and allowing temper tantrums or threats of suicide if demands are not met prove unhelpful. More helpful is setting limits that are clear, realistic, consistent, enforced promptly, and logistically sound.”  (Christianity Today)


This has been Part 11 of the series BPD for Churches. Read Part 12 BPD for Pastors