During the 1980s,there was a Religious Outreach Network that met at the NAMI National Convention each year. There was much enthusiasm and encouragement for members to return to their localities and reach out to faith communities. . . to promote education about serious mental illnesses and to increase understanding and support for people with mental illness and their families.
In 1986 in Virginia Beach, VA, a few family members and mental health professionals met together with the Rector to discuss starting such a program at Galilee. He was very positive, assisted in getting others to become a part of this budding ministry and became an active member himself.
Over these many years, the main focus of our ministry has been on providing education on mental illnesses and resources, as well as support and prayers for people with mental illness and their families. We have presented many and varied programs at Galilee and in the community, on occasion teaming up with NAMI VB and the City Mental Health Services for special presentations and activities. We have purchased books for the library, hosted information booths at community and regional events, participated in the Annual Walk for Hope and other Mental Illness Awareness Week activities. We have also reached out to neighboring faith communities, making presentations and providing resource information.
Additionally, during the past two years we have held monthly "all purpose" meetings which have included a short educational piece, support and sharing resource information. We have viewed many of the videotapes from Mental Health Ministries, including Creating Caring Congregations, Mental Illness and Families of Faith, Understanding Depression, Overcoming Stigma..., Gifts of the Shadow, Anxiety: Overcoming the Fear, and Alzheimer's Care and Support. These tapes have proven to be an excellent resource for our ministry. They include important information and are presented in a positive tone, providing hope and direction. The length of most tapes (short) was also an asset as it allowed sufficient time to discuss and relate the material to real life situations, as well as time for other meeting matters.
There are many other mental health ministries that have accomplished far more than ours. There are organizations dedicated to serving faith community-mental illness concerns. Many resources are available to assist in starting mental health programs/ ministries. We know that "faith communities are in a unique position to promote a message of acceptance and hope to people with mental illness." Faith communities reach 70% of the US population each month. So here's hoping you will take the first step toward starting a mental health ministry today!!