Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight - Winter 2011


Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is a time when many families and friends gather together. There are also many expectations. Despite our good intentions, the holidays rarely turn out as planned. Instead of focusing on meeting some unrealistic standard, we can focus on the things we are thankful for in our lives. We can give thanks for increasing awareness of mental illness, new medications on the horizon and for the persons and communities that have been supportive and caring throughout the year.

The holidays from the Christian tradition challenges us to go outside the box to find those forgotten, ignored or turned away from life’s inns. The eight day Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights, reminds us of the light that continues to shines in our times of darkness and despair. The real miracle is that when we give thanks by reaching out to others in need, we find our lives are blessed in ways we never expected.


Veterans Day is Wednesday, November 11. It is a time to give thanks for the service and dedication of our military veterans...past and present. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a major mental health issue as our veterans return from serving in the war. Our faith communities can show their appreciation and support for our troops throughout the year by learning about some of the challenges that returning veterans are dealing with and finding ways to support them and their families in times of transition.

Mental Health Ministries is offering an interfaith Veterans 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. This resource is available in English and in Spanish. We also have an article, How Faith Communities Can Help Veterans and Their Families Readjust by VA Chaplain, David Lundell.

NAMI's newest brochure on mental illness, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, covers the aspects of trauma, treatment options and coping strategies for individuals living with PTSD and their loved ones. Written by NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, it can also be used as a tool to help returning service men and women and veterans. Read the brochure online or purchase copies in the NAMI bookstore.


Welcome Them Home, Help them Heal BookWheat Ridge Ministries provided a seed grant that helped produce the book, Welcome Them Home—Help Them Heal. This book was written to equip the growing number of pastors, parish nurses, counselors and caregivers in churches across the country to support and advocate for veterans and their loved ones. Spiritual recovery after war best takes place in the context of caring, supportive communities of faith that share the news of God’s good grace and reconciliation. I have a copy of this book and recommend it. Their website is


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. 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 bulletin insert/flyer, What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? is available on the Mental Health Ministries Home page.


Not everyone is up and cheery for the 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 three sample services on the Home page. The first two are ones that I have used and the third service is written by Bonnie Kinschner. Other resources for a Blue Holiday or Blue Christmas are available on the One Mind Mental Illness Ministry website at

Blue Christmas Service 1
Blue Christmas Service 2
Blue Christmas Service 3


Shadow VoicesThe ABC TV program, Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness, a documentary produced by Third Way Media is now available on Netflix. The program features former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, Dr. Joyce Burland of National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Dr. William Anthony of Boston University. Along with these experts, five people tell personal stories of living long-term with depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, cutting and burning, and multiple addictions. For more information on this hour-long program, produced by Third Way Media, go to


Bridges of Hope is a new resource designed by NAMI FaithNet Advisory Committee members to give NAMI members a user friendly, scripted power point presentation to use when speaking to faith communities. The Reaching Out to Faith Communities training tool was previewed at the NAMI national convention in Chicago this past summer. The Reaching Out resource is designed to give background information and useful tools in preparations for reaching out to faith communities. Once persons have the information, tools and confidence, they can use Bridges of Hope to educate and empower faith communities on the importance of talking about mental illness to create caring congregations for persons living with a mental illness and their families.

Three topics are addressed including: What is mental illness and what is its impact?; What role can faith communities play in supporting and caring for people with mental illness?; and Who is NAMI and what does it offer faith communities? Length of the presentation depends on the speaker’s pace and amount of discussion encouraged. It can be used in its entirety or in sections, depending on the audience’s familiarity with the subject matter and time allotment. Both Reaching Out to Faith Communities and Bridges of Hope are available to be downloaded from the NAMI FaithNet micro-site at


Mental Illness and Families of Faith Study GuideThe resource/study guide, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond, is available in English and Spanish. It is available as a free, downloadable resource on the Mental Health Ministries Home page.


FacebookYou are invited to visit Mental Health Ministries on Facebook. I hope you will “Like” our new site.
Mental Health Ministries in now on Facebook.


We often hear that we should “count our blessings.” When one is living in the darkness and despair of mental illness, recognizing the blessings in our life can be farthest from our mind. At a time when I was feeling “down,” I heard the words to the song, “Thankful,” sung by Josh Groban. While acknowledging the hurt and pain in this world, the lyrics offered a message of hope and possibility for the future.

"Thankful" – by Josh Groban

Some days we forget to look around us
Some days we can’t see the joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves, we take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for what we know can be.
And on this day we hope for what we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change and even though we all can still do more,
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Look beyond ourselves there’s so much sorrow
It’s way too late to say I’ll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth, it’s so long overdue

Repeat Chorus
Even with our differences there is a place we’re all connected
Each of can find each others’ light

So for tonight we pray for what we know can be.
And on this day we hope for what we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change and even though we all can still do more,
There’s so much to be thankful for.

My prayer for each of us during this holiday season even as we give thanks, we commit ourselves to making changes on behalf of all persons living with mental illness. May we find each other’s light in this season of hope.


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