The holidays are upon us. They are supposed to be a time of joy, parties and gatherings with friends and family. But the holidays can be a stressful time under the best of conditions. The commercialization of the holiday season bombards us with unrealistic expectations especially in this troubled economy. With one in four families living with a family member with a mental illness, dealing with relatives and friends who do not understand a person’s illness can be difficult.
The brochure, Mental Illness: Coping with the Holidays, provides helpful self care tips for persons living with a mental illness, tips for families and friends and tips for communities of faith. You can download this resource from the Mental Health Ministries website in English or Spanish. There is a link to this resource on the Mental Health Ministries Home page or you can find it in the Other Resources section on the website under Brochures.
NOTE: All of our brochures, bulletin inserts and other print resources are available for download at no cost.
Not everyone is up and cheery for the Christmas holidays. Some people feel blue as in “the blues” at Christmas. Dealing with the death of a loved one, facing life after divorce or separation, coping with the loss of a job or of a home, living with cancer or other dis-ease make the holiday festivities a difficult and painful time for many persons in our congregations and in our communities.
Churches are increasingly attentive to the needs of people who are “blue” this Christmas. They are creating sacred space and hospitable settings to include those who face various kinds of losses, grief or depression. Such services are reflective, accepting the reality of where we are emotionally. They offer a message of hope and the assurance of God’s presence with us in the midst of our darkness. These services are known as Blue Christmas or the Longest Night. There are numerous examples of these services on the internet. We have three such services on our website.
Blue Christmas Service Sample 1
Bonnie’s Blue Christmas Sample 2
Blue Christmas Service Sample 3
We have all been deeply affected by the senseless shootings at Fort Hood. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a major mental health issue with our U.S. service members. Psychological issues surrounding trauma affect families, friends, a community and our nation. We pray that this tragic event at Fort Hood will raise awareness about PTSD and other psychological disorders associated with trauma. Faith communities can and should provide a supportive community for those affected by trauma of all kinds. An article, How Faith Communities Can Help Veteran’s and Their Families Readjust by VA Chaplain, David Lundell is available on the Mental Health Ministries Home page.
Rev. Jackson Day began his career as an Army Chaplain in Vietnam, and is a clergy member of the United Methodist Baltimore-Washington Conference. The experience of war has shaped his interest in psychological trauma. Over a period of six years he worked with a team of psychologists to produce Risking Connection in Faith Communities: A Training Curriculum for Faith Leaders Supporting Trauma Survivors, an adaptation for clergy in congregations of the first Risking Connection work which was oriented to those working with adult survivors of child abuse in the public mental health sector.
The five propositions around which Risking Connection in Health Communities is organized are: (1) The experience of trauma can wound human beings in six major realms, many of which affect the formation of relationships; (2) Relationships are central to healing from trauma; (3) Because humans are spiritual beings, trauma affects our relationship with God, and our relationship with God contributes to our healing from trauma; (4) Those who help trauma survivors will also be personally affected by the survivor’s experience and response to the trauma; and (5), Communities in general, and faith communities in particular, extend the web of relationships, both with others and with God. For information on this book and training opportunities, visit www.riskingconnection.com.
Persons working in the area of spirituality and mental illness gathered in St. Louis, MO, last month for a national conference, Pathways to Promise - Companions on the Road to Recovery – New Pathways for the 21st Century.
Some of the speakers included Mike Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of NAMI, Dr. Ken Thompson, Medical Director for SAMHSA, Dr. Doug Ronsheim, Executive Director of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and other national speakers working in the area of spirituality and mental illness. St Louis will be the site of a Mental Health Training Cooperative pilot project.
Pathways to Promise – www.pathways2promise.org
Picture: From left to right, Dr. Gary Milstein (City College of New York), Rev. Craig Rennebohm (Seattle Mental Health Chaplaincy), Rev. Bob Dell (Pathways to Promise, Director), and Dr. Doug Ronsheim (AAPC, Director)
A fascinating article from the New York Times describes a collaboration between Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California, and local shamans to provide culturally sensitive treatment to the Hmong community. This novel training program introduces shamans to the principles of Western medicine as part of a national movement to include a person’s cultural beliefs and values when decisions are made about medical treatment. Certified shamans have the same unrestricted access to patients given to clergy members. This partnership demonstrates the benefits to the patient and family when trust is built between Western medicine and the faith leaders of various cultures. Working together, they have made significant improvements to the medical provided to members of the Hmong community. The article, by Patricia Leigh Brown, can be found at www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/us/20shaman.html
I was privilege to be part of an interfaith panel to address the “hard questions” at the NAMI national convention this past summer. The panel included Rabbi Raphael Asher, Imam Dr. Amer Araim and I represented the Christian faith. Rev. Craig Rennebohm, Seattle Mental Health Chaplain, was the moderator. You can read an article on this workshop published in the fall edition of the NAMI Advocate.
Faith and spirituality are essential elements of healing and recovery from any serious medical illness, including mental illness. Sixty percent of people in emotional distress turn first to their clergy for help and counseling. Yet many clergy feel ill-equipped to provide appropriate support and referrals to persons living with mental illness.
A survey from NAMI FaithNet will help us identify contacts for each NAMI affiliate and better understand the needs of NAMI members, clergy and congregations of all faith traditions and help to create welcoming and supportive faith communities for individuals and families living with mental illness. Take the survey now!
Celebrate the Fourth in our nation’s capital!! Washington's celebration of Independence Day -- known locally as A Capitol Fourth -- opens with day-long performances on the National Mall by some of the country's top musicians and ends with a spectacular fireworks display over the Washington Monument accompanied by a live performance by the National Symphony Orchestra. And, it's ALL FREE.
Registration is now open for the 2010 NAMI national convention. Next year’s theme is “Recovery and Reform: The Road From Here.” The dates of the convention are June 30-July 3, 2010. More information and registration forms are available at www.nami.org/convention.
Mental Health Ministries is my passion. I started to speak out about my own mental illness while still serving in the local church. I took a sabbatical leave in 2001 and began to gather resources to erase the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities. Little did I know that Mental Health Ministries would become nationally recognized mission outreach. Little did I know the hunger people had to use their faith and spirituality in dealing with serious mental illnesses.
Mental Health Ministries has always been an act of faith. While I am under appointment by my bishop, this ministry is not supported by the church and I receive no compensation for my work. But we were blessed early on with some grants that gave me the opportunity to produce unique media resources. Grace happens and God continues to open doors for this ministry to grow.
I encourage you to consider a year end tax deductible gift to help Mental Health Ministries continue to provide resources to create caring communities for persons living with a mental illness and their families.
Donations can be made online through PayPal or sent to: Mental Health Ministries, 6707 Monte Verde Drive, San Diego, CA 92119. You will receive a letter to confirm your tax deductible gift.
Dear Friends of Mental Health Ministries,
Mental Health Ministries is a quiet service with a wide impact. As a colleague seeking to do a mental health ministry, I know how hard the work is. Creating awareness, doing education, helping build commitment, support and advocacy in local congregations for individuals and families facing mental illness is a challenging task.
The work of Susan and her colleagues is a gift to local churches and the wider community of faith across the country. Please join me in making a contribution to Mental Health Ministries in 2009. Your help counts.
Rev. Craig Rennebohm
Mental Health Chaplaincy
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. For the yoke that was weighing upon them and the burden upon their shoulders, thou hast broken in pieces O God. -Isaiah 9:2, 4
(Photos by Karen Lyman)
My prayer is that you receive the gift of God’s light, hope and love this holiday season.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119