Mental Illness Awareness Week is the first week in October. This is a wonderful opportunity to partner with community groups in your area to raise awareness about mental illness. This e-Spotlight will include information and resources to help you make the most of this educational opportunity.
The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Awareness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, October 5. This day of prayer was initiated by Angela Vickers, JD of NAMI Florida and Gunnar Christiansen, MD of NAMI California in 2004. It has had widespread support by individual congregations and National Faith Community Mental Illness Networks.The prayers and actions of both faith communities and secular organizations (e.g. NAMI, NMHA, DBSA, OCF, ADAA, etc.) are needed to restore mental wellness in America. In seeking God's guidance, we can recommit ourselves to replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and love in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.
You can download a resource with liturgies to use for the National Day of Prayer on the Home page of the Mental Health Ministries website. This resource is available in English and Spanish. Many faith communities have sponsored an interfaith candle lighting service using a liturgy written by Carole J. Wills that is included in this resource.
There is also a fact sheet, “What You Need to Know About Mental Illness,” including facts that involve our faith communities.
Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is NAMI’s premiere public education and community outreach activity. Held each year during the first full week of October, NAMI affiliates across the country sponsor events to promote mental illness awareness, put an end to stigma and advocate for support for treatment and recovery. This year’s theme is “Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives.” This book provides a wealth of information to help plan events. It includes a section on faith outreach. This resource can be found at NAMI FaithNet site and at www.nami.org/miaw. It is also available on the Mental Health Ministries website (click here).
We know that persons are more likely to go to their faith leader first with mental health problems than to mental health professionals. Yet studies show that most clergy are not effective in providing appropriate support or referrals. There are many reasons for this. Much of the work of Mental Health Ministries is to provide resources to educate faith leaders and congregations about mental illness and how they can support persons and families living with these “no fault” illnesses.
The National Depression Screening Day will be held on Thursday, October 7th, 2010. NDSD screening sites are sponsored by hospitals, mental health centers, government agencies, social service agencies, advocacy organizations, colleges, primary care clinics, workplaces, healthcare companies AND some faith communities. These screening programs now include both in-person and online programs for depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, alcohol problems and suicide prevention. There is a special link for persons in the military.
It is important to let members of your congregation know about screening sites in your area. If we can reach persons with undetected and untreated mental disorders, we can encourage them to seek appropriate treatment. If we talk about mental illness like any other illness, we will help to reduce the stigma and shame associated with these brain disorders. It is also helpful if faith leaders have the names of local mental health professionals and organizations in order to provide appropriate referral information at any time of the year.
For more information, visit http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/events/ndsd/
Approximately 19 million Americans experience depression. We have included the Zung Self Rating Depression Scale on the Home page of our website. Remember—depression is more than just feeling down. It is a real medical condition that can be effectively treated, but first you must seek help. These tools can be used for you or given to others.
The NAMI national convention held in Washington D.C. this summer provided a wonderful opportunity to talk face to face with persons I only know through e-mails and phone conferences. It was truly a time of “holy conferencing” for me. It was also a time of fellowship and networking with persons who share my passion for helping to educate our faith communities about mental illness so they become caring congregations for persons living with a mental illness and their families.
For resources and to receive the NAMI FaithNet e-mail, go to www.nami.org/namifaithnet.
Picture: NAMI FaithNet Advisory Committee from right to left, Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, Tom Lambert, Carole Wills, Gunnar Christiansen. Missing: Rev. Craig Rennebohm
I cannot lift up all workshops and conferences being offered on the topic of spirituality and mental illness, but I want to share two national events for this fall.
A national gathering this Sept. in St. Louis, MO, is hosted by the United Church of Christ Mental Illness Network and Disabilities Ministries. The theme of the conference is “Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All.” National speakers include Nancy Kehoe, author of “Wrestling with our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness and the Journey to Wholeness,” and Debbie Creamer, author of “Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities” along with Craig Rennebohm, author of “Souls in the Hands of a Tender God.” For more information and registration visit www.wideningthewelcome.com.
I’ll be one of the speakers at a conference, “Mental Health Needs of Your Faith Community: How to Recognize, Respond and Refer,” tobe held in Chicago on November 9, 2010. There is an extensive website for this event at
Comfort My People is an excellent resource on mental illness by The Presbyterian Church USA. You can download this resource or purchase copies through the Presbyterian Distribution Service (PDS) at http://oga.pcusa.org/publications/serious-mental-illness2008.pdf. Additional copies are available at $4.00 each from the Presbyterian Distribution Service (PDS), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396, or by calling 1-800-524-2612. The PDS order number is #02-052-09-003
The Kinschner family has launched a new website that has grown out of their passion to provide leadership, guidance and support to groups of people who will come together in faith, love and compassion for people with mental illness and those who love and care about them. One Mind Mental Illness Ministry grew out of the family’s experience as they have journeyed with their daughter, Janet, after a shattering diagnosis of mental illness.
Their Mission is to work together to develop and nurture the faith-based component of healing for those with mental illness in the MINDS and hearts of all people….one mind at a time.
The Vision is to help develop, support and nurture caring communities of faith for all those affected by mental illness through: Education, Training and Support.
This site is unique in that different members of Janet’s family share their individual stories of the impact a diagnosis of mental illness has had on their lives. You can communicate with the family directly through the website, www.onemindmentalillnessministry.com, with questions and requests for help, resources, prayers and a blog by Janet.
JANET’S BLOG has been created to be a safe place where people who suffer from a mental illness can find support and encouragement through the stories and comments of other people who suffer from a mental illness. It is Janet’s desire that the anonymity of the blog will allow people to feel comfortable to share. If people do not want to share, the hope is that reading the stories and comments will bring people peace and healing. Some of the titles of Janet’s entries are: Baby Steps!, Why?, It Is What It Is! and Full Disclosure? Her blog can be accessed through our web site or at www.purseandheel.wordpress.com.
I often get questions about what “healing” means when living with a severe mental illness. Bonnie Kinschner has written an excellent article, Curing and Healing, that shares their family’s experience with their daughter’s illness and provides some very helpful insights on this topic. You can download this resource under “Articles” in the Resource and Links section of the website or use this link:
"Having devoted much of my life to helping people with mental illness, I am constantly impressed by stories of achievement and courage . . . In his two-part book, Jerome gives us a panoramic view into the workings of his agile mind and creative genius. Book One gives sensible but uncommon advice on creating art that also enhances numerous coping skills. In Book Two, . . Jerome describes the confusion and fear when a promising young mind goes awry." -- Rosalynn Carter
During his senior year of 1982, while majoring in Studio Art at Georgia State University, Jerome Lawrence received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Jerome continued to paint as he had all his life and he has now been in recovery for many years. In 2004 the Carter Center in Atlanta invited Jerome to give a solo art exhibit to an audience that included President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter. Jerome continues to use his gift of painting to help others understand mental illness.
Veteran's Day is Wednesday, November 11. It is a time to honor and remember our military veterans...past and present. We can make a difference in the lives of millions of people if we not only remember, but also reach out to support the troops returning from combat service.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a major mental health issue as our veterans return from serving in the war. The Rand Corporation recently released a study estimating that one in five U.S. service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from major depression or combat stress. We are seeing an increase in combat stress, addiction, domestic violence and suicide. Too often the ethic is to be silent about combat related mental health problems. Only half of those with mental health problems seek treatment.
Mental Health Ministries is offering an interfaith Veteran's Day resource that can be used as a bulletin insert or flyer. It can be printed on both sides and cut in half to save paper. We hope this will raise the important issues faced by our returning troops and give your faith community some ideas on how to be supportive. This resource is available in English and in Spanish. We also have an article, How Faith Communities Can Help Veteran’s and Their Families Readjust by VA Chaplain, David Lundell.
A packet from the Presbyterian Church USA, The Wounds of War: The Church as a Healing Community, is downloadable at http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/phewa/disability-accessinclusion-sunday/
I have been so gratified by the response to my four session resource/study guide for clergy and communities of faith. Surveys show that over forty percent of Americans seeking help with mental health issues turn first to ministers, priests and rabbis. This is twice as many as those who went first to a psychiatrist, psychologist or family physician. Unfortunately, the response of clergy and congregations falls significantly short of what parishioners expect of their faith leaders. Individuals struggling with mental illness are significantly less likely to receive the same level of pastoral care as persons in the hospital with physical illnesses, persons who are dying or those who have long-term illnesses.
This resource is designed to be used with clergy, members of congregations, family members and anyone desiring to learn more about mental illness and how to respond with compassion and care. It can be used as a small group study or leaders can adapt it to use in an extended class or seminar. Faith leaders can use this guide to quickly find information on a specific topic when the need arrives.
The four sections included in this resource/study guide include:
Understanding Mental Illness
The Unique Role of Faith Communities
Ana Maria Solbes, a member of INGENIUM, delivered a CD of the Spanish translation of this resource to Susan at the NAMI convention in Washington D.C.
Creating Caring Congregations
Help for Faith Leaders
This is a FREE resource that can be downloaded on the Mental Health Ministries website as a PDF document. With thanks to the INGENIUM ABP group from Monterrey, Mexico, this resource is also available in Spanish! Click here to download this new resource.
Picture: Ana Maria Solbes, a member of INGENIUM, delivered a CD of the Spanish translation of this resource to Susan at the NAMI convention in Washington D.C.
The stores are full of colorful and functional items for “back to school.” I was a Kindergarten teacher before going to seminary. I remember how difficult it was for parents to leave their children at the door on that first day of school. Often both the child and the parent were crying. I had to shut the door and keep things moving quickly to distract the children and involve them in fun activities.
My grandson starts Kindergarten this fall. I know my daughter will be outside the door of his room with a mixture of emotions. Other parents will become “empty nesters.” Starting at birth we live in that creative tension of holding on and letting go. That tension of is even more difficult when our child has a physical or mental health issue.
Jean Vanier is the founder of the L’Arche communities, places where mentally handicapped persons live together. He uses a wonderful image to illustrate this delicate balancing act of releasing and holding. He uses the image of cupping the hands lightly.
Vanier says, “Suppose I have a wounded bird in my hands. What would happen if I closed my hands completely?” The response, of course, is that the bird would be crushed and die.
“Well, then, what would happen if I opened my hand completely?” The bird will try to fly away, but it will fall and die.
Vanier says, “The right place is like my cupped hand, neither totally open nor totally closed. It is the space where growth can take place.”
May we learn to open our hands and entrust our loved ones to the cupped hands of God.
Note: I am sending out the Fall e-Spotlight early because my husband and I will be traveling to Europe for a much anticipated trip to Ireland. My own spiritual life has always been enriched by other faith traditions. Celtic spirituality reminds me to experience the sacred ordinary of daily living in our relationships with other people and with the natural world. We will be back in the United States the middle of September.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119