Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight - August 2009

Many of us espouse an integrative approach to mental illness…a philosophy of treatment that acknowledges the physical, emotional and spiritual components of these illnesses. But our current mental health delivery system works on a medical model that puts the emphasis on the illness and not on the many other needs of the individual.

The medical model looks for a cure. The emphasis is on finding answers and the relief of symptoms. As we know, many times there is not a cure. But healing is the peace that comes from knowing that God is working in our lives to bring about the best possible outcome, which is healing of mind, body and spirit. This sense of peace and wholeness are gifts from a loving and compassionate God even as we learn to live with mental illness.

The challenge we face today is not the choice between faith and science. We need both. We need to find ways to build bridges of understanding between the faith communities and the mental health providers.


Some spiritual assessment tools have been added to our website to help mental health professionals find ways to include a person’s faith and spirituality in the treatment and recovery process. Included on the Home page and under Resources and Links you can download the following tools for spiritual assessment.

Zung Self Rating Depression Scale
FICA: Personal Spiritual Assessment
FICA: Taking a Spiritual History


When clergy refer members of their congregations to social workers and psychologists, they typically turn to people who share their religious values, but this approach may not provide people with the care they need according to Glen Milstein, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the City College of New York (CCNY). According to Dr. Milstein, “Most Americans are religious, but most mental health professions are unaffiliated with religious congregations. Therefore, seeking help only from professionals with shared religious values may exclude congregants from needed professional expertise.”

For the past decade, Dr. Milstein has led a multidisciplinary team of researchers in developing a new multidisciplinary, multifaith, and research-focused model for relationships between clergy and clinicians that is religion-inclusive rather than faith based. Known as C.O.P.E. (Clergy Outreach and Professional Engagement), the approach is designed to reduce burdens on both professions.

The key to the C.O.P.E. model is the recognition that mental illness is a chronic disease; sometimes one can function and other times not. Milstein says, “Clinicians and clergy perform distinct, complementary functions in treating these syndromes. While clinicians provide professional treatment to relieve individuals of their pain and suffering and move them from dysfunction to their highest level of function, clergy and religious communities provide a sense of context, support, and community before, during, and after treatment.”

The program aims to improve care of individuals by facilitating reciprocal collaboration between clinicians and members of the clergy, regardless of either’s religious affiliation. Working from the National Institute of Mental Health’s four prevention categories, Dr. Milstein and his team developed two handouts, one for mental health professionals and the other for clergy, available at:


Mental Illness & Families of FaithWe have put the best of our educational videos on our two DVD set to help educate faith communities about various mental health issues. The shows on the set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond, are “user-friendly” and short enough to be used in a variety of settings including classes and small groups. Each segment has a discussion guide with background information, questions for discussion and where to find additional resources.

These eight shows cover a variety of mental health issues. Professionals provide important information about each illness. But mostly you will hear from real people who live with these brain disorders. Each segment presents an issue related to the experience of mental illness, puts a face to the issue and offers a message of hope.


Disc 1
Coming Out of the Dark (Interfaith Introduction, (Length: 53 seconds)
Mental Illness in Different Age Groups (Length: 17:39 minutes)
Mental Illness and Families of Faith (Length: 20:50 minutes)
Understanding Depression (Length: 16:31 minutes)
Overcoming Stigma: Finding Hope (Length: 13:13 minutes)

Disc 2
Addiction and Depression (Length: 16:42 minutes)
Anxiety: Overcoming the Fear (Length: 18:49 minutes)
Teenage Depression and Suicide (Length: 14:39 minutes)
Eating Disorders: Wasting Away (Length: 12:58 minutes)
Creating Caring Congregations (Length: 10:39 minutes)

This 2 DVD set is closed captioned.

The price is $49.95 with $6.00 shipping. It can be ordered on our website or you can write a check to Mental Health Ministries and send it to the address below.

Short clips from many of our shows can be viewed on our website by going to the VHS Resource section and clicking on the various topics offered.


The NAMI national convention in San Francisco provided a wonderful opportunity for networking with others working in the area of spirituality and mental illness. Some exciting models of ministry were shared at the NAMI FaithNet Special Interest Workshop. Those of us on the national advisory committee and NAMI national staff are committed to finding ways to easily access information and resources. You can subscribe to the NAMI FaithNet e-newsletter at I encourage you to visit the NAMI website often as it is continually updated with articles, news and resources. NAMI FaithNet brochures are available in the NAMI store. 50 brochures cost $6.


The SoloistThe Soloist
One of the highlights of the recent NAMI national convention in San Francisco was the appearance of Nathaniel Ayers, the man behind the story of in the movie, “The Soloist.” Nathaniel’s moving story helps all of us understand the relationship of mental illness and homelessness. Once more we are reminded that in sharing one’s story, the ignorance, stereotypes, fear and stigma surrounding mental illness begin to break

We were not sure that Nathaniel would actually come to receive his award in front of hundreds of persons who have been affected by mental illness. But he blessed us with sharing his music, his smile, his courage and his presence with us. Journalist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel’s sister were also present to share how their lives have been profoundly changed through sharing Nathaniel’s difficult journey of living with mental illness.

I sat at a table with two women who worked with the homeless in downtown Los Angeles. They related to me how many of the other homeless persons who appeared in the movie also experienced a profound change when they saw themselves on the screen in this movie. When one of the women was able to look at what her life had become, she said that the person on the screen is not who she is. It is not who God intended for her to be. She transformed her life by getting off drugs and off the street. She continues to move towards recovery.

Other persons filmed in the story had a similar experience because they too experienced the power of connecting with persons who treat them with respect and dignity. The barriers between “us” and “them” were broken down. And the persons involved in the production of the crew and those of us who watched the movie have all been transformed and challenged to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and to work to bring systemic change to the mental health care delivery system in our country.

Michael Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of NAMI, wrote, “The Soloist is a symphony, providing an honest look at mental illness, human dignity and the need for social connection.” Medications may cure the symptoms but it is relationship and love that heal the soul.

May we all experience the redemptive power of relationships.


Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119