Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight - Summer 2010

The barbeques and lawn chairs were in the stores in February and March even though most of the country was digging out of the snow or pouring rain. Fourth of July supplies and decorations were up the day after Easter. Marketing keeps us looking to what is coming next instead of living in the present.

Summer is a time to reclaim the spiritual practice of mindfulness. Many people are embracing Eastern spirituality, learning various forms of focused prayer and meditation. I recall being in a group where we were asked to spend one full hour using our physical senses to see, touch, feel, smell and finally taste an apple. The spiritual discipline of mindfulness is in our Western tradition, but it has to be re-discovered and re-claimed in a society that values “doing” over simply “being.”

Summer can be a time to take a deep breath, simplify, prioritize, re-create and live in the present. I pray we can slow down this summer…even when the barbeques go on sale to make room for fall fashion and back to school!


The NAMI national convention will be held in Washington D.C. on June 30-July 3, 2010. This gives you the opportunity to be part of the July 4th celebrations in our nation’s capitol! The theme for this year’s conference is Recovery and Reform: The Road From Here. More information and registration forms are available at, or click here to view a PDF of FaithNet convention offerings.

I am excited about the many opportunities being offered that explore mental illness and spirituality. Two new training modules are being developed by the NAMI FaithNet Advisory Committee that will equip you to help create caring congregations for persons living with mental illness and their families. There will be the NAMI FaithNet Networking Workshop, a symposium with Dr. Nancy Clare Kehoe based on her book, Wrestling with Our Inner Angels and a workshop on Telling to Touch: Sharing Your Story in Faith Communities.

You can view the details of these offerings by clicking here. The sessions at the national conference will be audio taped and those tapes will be available to those unable to attend the conference. For further updates and resources for faith communities, go to and look under resources.


When Medicine Got It Wrong, the documentary about NAMI's origins as a grassroots movement and founding as a national organization, will air on local PBS television stations beginning in May. The film tells the stories of families who were unfairly blamed for their children's mental illness and insisted on advancements in medicine and science. The documentary was shown at NAMI's 30th anniversary national convention last year. When Medicine Got It Wrong is not just about the past—it's about NAMI's present and future. In the face of continuing stigma and discrimination, budget cutbacks and people still falling through cracks, it asks, "Where is the outrage today?" To find your local air date and time, visit their official Web site.


SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) is a division of the federal government that has a resource center to promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion associated with mental health (ADS Center). They have a new 10x10 Wellness Campaign designed to promote health and well-being and prevent early mortality for people with mental health problems. Campaign-related information is available online at

The vision for this program is a future in which people with mental health problems pursue optimal health, happiness, recovery, and a full and satisfying life in the community via access to a range of effective services, supports, and resources. They identify six dimensions of wellness which includes spirituality.

The Six Dimensions of Wellness

Social -contributing to one’s environment and community
Physical -engaging in regular physical activity, learning about nutrition, and taking care of illnesses
Emotional - awareness of one’s feelings while maintaining satisfying relationships
Spiritual - search for meaning and purpose in human existence
Occupational - personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work
Intellectual -creativity and mentally stimulating activities of interest


In Alameda County, California, Rev. Barbara Meyers, a Unitarian Universalist community minister, produces a public-access TV program called Mental Health Matters – Alameda County. A new interview format show is produced each month with each show focusing on a different aspect of mental health. The work is supported by an agency with funding from Alameda County Behavioral Healthcare Services. The focus of the program is Hope.

The shows are shown on public access channels throughout Alameda County, California, and are also available on-line so they can be watched from anywhere. You can see any of the 28 episodes at

Rev. Meyers is also the author of a curriculum called the Caring Congregation Program which seeks to educate congregations about mental health available at


We know the important role that faith and spirituality can play in mental illness. Research backs up this connection: 476 studies reporting "statistically significant positive associations," according to a review of research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry last year.

The article was written by Harold G. Koenig, MD, of Duke University, a leading scholar of the subject. He notes that people with bipolar and other mental illnesses find faith to be a powerful coping tool. More than that, a robust faith practice seems to protect against depression.

Why? For one thing, Koenig told bp, faith "gives people a hope that medicine and science can't give. It gives them hope that there's a plan-a good plan-and that good things can result in their life even if they're in a lot of pain." It's all in "Connecting mind, body & spirit," from our Summer 2006 issue. Read more from bp Magazine:


Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: Ministering to Returning Combat Veterans addresses the challenge for soldiers and families of adjusting to life after war. It provides guidance for the faith community to reach out to those in uniform and help the next generation of veterans come all the way home from war and find their place again in civilian life, far from the fields of battle. Authors David A. Thompson and Darlene Wetterstrom offer straightforward, challenging practical help for returning soldiers and their families. Thompson is a retired military chaplain, a licensed professional counselor and a military family life consultant for the National Guard and Reserves in Minnesota. The book is available through; 1-800-672-1789.


Wisdom Legacy is partnering with NAMI affiliates and other behavioral health support groups across the nation to capture and share the most important lessons people have learned from their encounters with mental illness. They are using these stories to help people who are new to the journey, to let them know they aren’t alone, and give them hope. Using an online interview available exclusively at, partner organizations invite their members and others from their community to anonymously share what they have experienced and what they have learned from it. Those who have participated have been amazed by how fast, easy and cathartic the process is and by the incredible power of the results.

The first book in this series was recently completed by NAMI of San Diego and can be purchased on-line at: If you or your organization would like to bring this project to your community and write your own book, please contact Dave Burrill, CEO of Wisdom Legacy at


As a United Methodist minister, I appreciate that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi thanked The United Methodist Church for the support our denomination has given to health-care reform. Many faith groups were involved in working for this important legislation that will provide important protections for every person including banning health-insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

My son recently lost his health insurance because his small business employer was having cash flow problems. He applied for an individual plan with the same HMO. My son was denied and one of the two reasons listed was “mild depression.” He could only qualify for a “high risk” insurance with very high premiums…which my husband and I would end up paying. I found out the hard way that the part of the health bill on pre-existing conditions does not kick in until 2014!

My son’s situation was resolved with a move to another employer. But this was a reminder of the over 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured and the low income working people who cannot afford the steep prices for health insurance now. Like most of you, I do not understand the complexities of this legislation and there is much work to be done. But it is an important step in reaching out to the “least of these” in our midst including those struggling with mental illness.


Presentations from the national summit, Companions on the Road to Recovery from Mental Illness: Pathways for the 21st Century, held in October of 2009 in St. Louis, MO., are now available on-line as free downloads. The conference agenda is posted on with embedded links to some 20 of the presentations from the conference.


I have written a four session resource/study guide for clergy and communities of faith in response to the many questions and requests for information that I receive from persons who want to include spirituality as an important part of the treatment and recovery process.

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. Mental illness has been called the “no casserole disease.”

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
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 Mexico, this resource will soon be available in Spanish! Click here to download this new resource.


The Three-Legged StoolThe Three-Legged Stool
Visualize a three-legged stool. We are all created with the opportunity to develop three sides of ourselves: our body, our mind and our spirit.

Developing our physical side involves eating wholesome food, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco and drugs, being safety conscious and taking care of any physical problems that arise.

Developing our mental side involves reading and learning, taking classes, creating, organizing, thinking and laughing. Our mental side also makes choices that integrate the physical, mental and spiritual side of ourselves.

Our spiritual side, without which the other two sides are meaningless, involves discovering and developing our values and goals in life. This side gives us perspectives and helps us develop the guiding principles by which we live.

“Good health” gives equal importance to developing all three sides or ourselves. Otherwise we become a wobbly one-legged or two-legged stool…and we may even topple over.

Let us keep this image in mind as we “re-create” this summer with family and friends. Plan time this summer.

When we are grounded in mind, body and spirit, we are able to use our life in service to others.

I pray for the time when individuals and families living with a loved one with a mental illness will be silent no more.


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