This holiday season is 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.
As winter approaches and the days get shorter, many people suffer with a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Although SAD isn’t totally understood, it is a real illness with real symptoms that vary in frequency and intensity.
During the darkest nights of the winter, many faith traditions celebrate religious holidays. With SAD, as with all chronic mental illnesses and normal holiday stress, our faith communities can be intentional about finding ways to encourage a healthy winter holiday season that focuses on our faith, our families and our friends.
A new bulletin insert/flyer, What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?, is available on the Mental Health Ministries Home page. A bulletin insert is meant to be copied back to back and cut in half. And bulletin inserts can also be used as handouts.
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, struggling with chronic mental illness 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 two sample services on the Home page. The first is a service I used last year and the second service was put together by Bonnie Kinschner with www.OneMindMentalIllnessMinistry.com.
Blue Christmas Service Service 1
Blue Christmas Service Service 2
A new pamphlet, Dealing with Bipolar Depression, has been released as part of the Close to Home series offered by the Mennonite Publishing Network. This pamphlet offers guidance to sufferers, as well as to family members and friends in the church community. The Close to Home pamphlets are designed to help Christian caregivers support those dealing with difficult personal issues and to lead them on a path to wholeness. Information on this resource can be found at
http://store.mpn.net/productdetails.cfm?PC=1503 and information on the whole series is available at
A national gathering hosted by the United Church of Christ Mental Illness Network and the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries was held in September in St. Louis, MO. It was called, “Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All.” It addressed the theological and practical aspects of a faith community’s inclusion of all who are affected by mental illness/brain disorders and disabilities. DVD’s and CD’s of the keynote addresses and workshops are available for purchase at www.WideningtheWelcome.com. You can also order these resources from
A new Facebook page on Finding Hope in Mental Illness is available for people who want to meet and talk to each other about these issues. It is intended for all those whose lives have been affected by mental illness. Whether it is yourself or someone you know, this page is intended to help its members through what can be a difficult situation.
This page was founded by Shadow Voices, related to a documentary telling the stories of people dealing with mental illness. Shadow Voices provides a history of treatments, information about various recovery groups, and has even made feature documentaries dealing with stigma, recovery and hope regarding mental illness. Through their website, you can even share your story, and read the inspiring stories of others.
Rev. Laura L. Mancuso, MS, CRC, is a psychiatric rehabilitation counselor, interfaith minister, and spiritual counselor based in Goleta, California. Her article, Revealing the Spiritual Wisdom of People with Mental Illnesses, was published in the online Journal of the Chaplaincy Institute for Arts and Interfaith Ministries in March & August 2010. To read her article, go to
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 sixty 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
Click here to download this new resource in English.
Click here to download this resource in Spanish
My husband and I recently returned from a long anticipated trip to Ireland and Amsterdam. Ireland was all and more than I expected it to be with wonderful people and beautiful countryside…and we missed the rain!
In Amsterdam we visited the Anne Frank House which is a moving experience. One single person sharing her story has captured the suffering of countless others whose faces have remained in the shadows.
One of the most powerful parts of this experience was interactive videos clips that were shown at the end of the exhibits. Well-produced, short video clips depicting issues from current events around the world. After each clip there was the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on the question posed. Surprisingly I found the questions were very difficult to answer because they involved weighing the rights of one group over another group, stigma and persons acting out of fear rather than understanding. Do we protect the civil rights of all persons including those groups that preach hatred and insight violence through fear?
Anne Frank’s father was instrumental in setting up the Anne Frank House. He wrote, “The Anne Frank House is meant to be and will be an instrument to build a better world and to work against persecution, discrimination and fear.”
I couldn’t help but think about the many persons around the world who suffer the stigma of mental illness because of fear and because of the lack of knowledge about these illnesses. The experience of visiting the Anne Frank House affirms the power of one person sharing his or her story and that through education we can work together to fight stigma, discrimination and fear.
May the light of this season fill your heart and shine in our world.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119