This month we will feature ideas to help you begin or expand an outreach to person with a mental illness and their families following the five step "caring congregations" model. The five steps included in this model are education, commitment, welcome, support and advocacy. A free, downloadable brochure to highlight these steps is available on the Resources and Links-Brochures page of our website. Our Creating Caring Congregations DVD or VHS resource also outlines these steps...along with segments on mental illness in adolescents, adults and older adults.
All of the resources developed by Mental Health Ministries, both print and media area designed to help educate about mental illness while acknowledging the important role that a person's faith can play in the treatment and recovery process.
Ask your clergy person to include mental illness in a sermon, pastoral prayer or other liturgies.
Use the Creating Caring Congregations DVD or VHS resource in a class or with a small group. A discussion guide is included with all our resources.
Start a four week small group using Susan's book, In the Shadow of God's Wings: Grace in the Midst of Depression. There is an accompanying Group Study Guide.
Invite a speaker from the community to give a presentation on a mental illness. Contact groups like NAMI, DBSA or MHA to provide educational material on mental illness.
Place an insert in your worship bulletin. We have a new bulletin insert on the website in the Other Resources section. There is also a bulletin insert on mental illness in children.
Offer a health fair and include education about different mental illnesses.
It is often a concerned lay person who initiates a congregation to reach out to persons with a mental illness and their families.
Involve the clergy and other leadership groups in developing a task force to assess the needs of your congregation.
Adopt a statement stating our congregation's commitment to this ministry.
Hospitality is a core value of all major religions. Welcoming persons with a mental illness involves seeking ways to integrate them into the faith community.
Provide training for ushers and greeters to be welcoming and supportive of all persons. Some communities have trained persons to act as "companions" to accompany a person to worship, to talk or simply to help them find a quiet place to rest.
Invite persons with a mental illness to participate as they are willing and able...acting as a liturgist, being part of a group.
Include persons with a mental illness in prayers, liturgies and sermon illustrations
Partner with organizations in your area to identify persons who would need a ride to a faith community of their choice.
There are many ways to provide support to persons with a mental illness and their families. Most mental health outreach programs begin small. Seeds are sown, take root and often reach out to the meet the needs of the larger community.
Have a referral list of services in your community.
Train mentors through programs like Stephen Ministry, parish nurses and other volunteers.
Offer a support group or invite outside groups like the NAMI "Family to Family" program to use your facilities.
Provide counseling services through a sliding scale or voucher program.
Involve members in programs to provide meals or housing.
Make "Comfort Kit Baskets" to take to persons who are in the hospital, residential facility or who do not come to worship due to their illness to let them know they are not forgotten.
Find ways to reach out and support family members.
Mental illness is a justice issue involving such issues as access to medical care, the criminal justice system, housing and job training. Once a congregation has developed a mental health ministry, a natural next step is to be involved in advocacy.
Keep informed on pending legislation about mental illness and respond by contacting your elected representatives.
Partner with other organizations for community events about mental illness. The community needs to be educated about the important role a person's faith can play in the treatment and recovery process.
Faith communities are in a unique position to be part of a support network. The mission of Mental Health Ministries is to provide resources to help you educate about mental illness in your setting. You can now preview some of our media resources on our website at www.MentalHealthMinistries.net .
Spring is a time of hope and new beginnings.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119