In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). 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 to erase the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities.
Resources on the Mental Health Ministries Home page include:
Mental Illness Awareness Week bulletin insert (PDF, English)
National Day of Prayer ideas (PDF, English | PDF, Spanish)
National Day of Prayer Sermon Starters (PDF, English)
What You Need to Know About Mental Illness fact sheet (PDF, English)
The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (PDF, English | PDF, Spanish)
September is Recovery Month: Addiction and Depression Video Clip
NAMI FaithNet has put together a toolkit of resources available at www.nami.org/miaw.
As you plan for new fall programs and look at Mental Illness Awareness Week resources, I hope these discussion questions will help people in your congregation assess the needs and direction for a mental health ministry. I have used them at conferences and I have gotten feedback that they are helpful when considering where to begin.
What would you do if you recognized the symptoms of mental illness with a person in your congregation?
What strengths does your congregation have that will help you to develop and implement a mental health ministry?
How can your congregation be welcoming of persons with a mental illness and provide a nurturing community where their spiritual needs can be met?
Who are the persons you can name to take leadership in developing a mental health ministry.
What resources are available in your community for referrals and possible collaborative efforts to educate about mental illness?
What are the first steps? What will you do tomorrow?
The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Awareness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, October 9, 2012. 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. 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.
National Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of treatment for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. It spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.
A free downloadable toolkit and other resources are available from SAMHSA at http://recoverymonth.gov/
Mental Health Ministries has a video show, Addiction and Depression. It shares how
addiction to alcohol and/or drugs often masks an underlying depression. The link between addiction and depression can cause a downward spiral leading to severe health problems, especially suicide. Three persons share their stories of addiction and depression that end in recovery. The full show is available on the Mental Health Ministries DVD set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond. A short clip is available on our DVD, Mental Health Mission Moments DVD. We also have our videos posted under Videos in the Resource section on our website. Use this link to go directly to You Tube.
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.
This year the National Depression Screening Day will be held on Thursday, October 11, 2012. Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, NDSD raises awareness and screens people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders. Screening for Mental Health offers National Depression Screening Day programs for the military, colleges and universities, community-based organizations and businesses. For more information visit the NDSD website at http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/events/national-depression-screening-day.aspx
The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale is a short self-administered survey to quantify the depressed status of a patient. There are 20 items on the scale that rate the four common characteristics of depression: the persuasive effect, the physiological equivalents, other disturbances, and psychomotor activities. It is available in English and Spanish on our website.
You can 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.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are important holy days for the Jewish faith community. Barbara Sloan has written what these holy days mean for her in her journey with mental illness.
On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, G-d opens the Book of Life; on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, He seals it for the coming year.The more I look to G-d for guidance, the better my life, scarred by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depression, has become. I strive to obey G-d's commandments humbly and wholeheartedly.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur remind me that I can't change the past, but I can look to the future and to a better life, based on my closeness to G-d. As I prepare for these holidays by reading, praying, thinking and most importantly, identifying and vowing to improve my flaws, I am blessed with renewal and peace and the comfort of G-d's everlasting love.
Barbara J. Sloan attends Chabad in Wallingford, CT. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbara Sloan called my attention to the JPSYCH group that does research on Judaism and Mental Health. They have a number of evidenced based academic articles available on their website at http://www.jpsych.com/.
Their most recent article is Jewish Spirituality, Depression and Health. Are the effects of Jewish spirituality on depression and health a function of belief, practice or both? Is it enough to believe without actually engaging in religious practice? Conversely, can religious practice without faith be of help?
Comment From JPSYCH: We explored these fundamental questions in a scientific manuscript - now in press at the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. We proposed that core beliefs about God can activate the use of religious behaviors in times of distress, which in turn impact psychological and physical health. Through the use of mediation and moderation analyses, we found support for our proposition to the exclusion of other relationships. These results suggest that both belief and practice are integral to health, but in different ways. Specifically, spiritual beliefs are important in that they facilitate action, but action is the driving force in providing psychological and health benefits. Please visit our Publications page for more information about this study.
Kitt Reidy is a Quaker, artist, writer, photographer and a person who lives with bipolar disorder and PTSD. In her book, Letters to a Steadfast Tree, Divinity tells Lucy (the tree at Friends Psychiatric Hospital) how the spiritual journey of a woman became entangled with mental illness. A Kindle copy of this book is available at http://amzn.com/B008CGOF3W. Kitt has a blog with the same name. She writes, “I feel led to share truths about mental illness, faith, and community through storytelling and artwork. This blog is one platform for sharing my stories.” http://letterstoasteadfasttree.wordpress.com.
The August issue of Crossroads has several research studies on mental illness and spirituality. The Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health is part of the Duke University Center for Aging and Human Development. Crossroads is a publication of Duke University's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.
The Effect of Prayer on Depression and Anxiety
Religion and Suicidal Ideations Among Blacks in the United States
Religious Songs, Coping and Mental Health in African Americans
Religious vs. Conventional Psychotherapy for Depression in the Mentally Ill
Articles can be found at http://www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu/resources/pdfs/CSTH%20Newsletter%20Aug%202012.pdf
Tom Wootton with Bipolar Advantage has written an article for Psychology Today called How I Found Ecstasy In Depression. You can read the article at
The 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.
Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond is a two DVD set to help educate faith communities about various mental health issues. One in four families sitting in our pews has a family member dealing with a mental illness. Yet many are suffering in silence. Through education, we can erase the stigma associated with these "no fault" illnesses and provide congregations with examples of how they can become supportive and caring communities for individuals and families affected by mental illness.
These eight shows cover a variety of mental health issues. Professionals provide important information about each illness. But mostly you will hear from real people who live with these brain disorders. Each segment presents an issue related to the experience of mental illness, puts a face to the issue and offers a message of hope. The shows are short enough to be used in a variety of settings including classes and small groups. Each segment has a discussion guide with background information, questions for discussion and where to find additional resources. For more information go to Mental Illness and Families of Faith.
You are invited to visit Mental Health Ministries on Facebook. I hope you will “Like” our new site.
Mental Health Ministries in now on Facebook.
It was one of those unexpected creative moments when I felt like I had to get my ideas down before they were gone. My thoughts poured out through my fingers to the keyboard in front of me. And then it happened! My computer crashed. A major crash! I was overcome with feelings of panic, helplessness, lack of control and the inability to do anything about my situation. I felt the loss of the technology that we have come to depend on to connect us to our world and, more importantly, to other people.
The word “crash” means so many things in our daily vocabulary...cars crash, the stock market crashes, breakable objects crash, waves crash, we crash at people’s houses for the night. My crash with technology triggered memories of those times when I have crashed emotionally…times when I felt totally disconnected with all that was familiar…times when I felt helpless and hopeless to find my way out of a very dark place.
The gift comes when we are able to reach out to others in our times of need. I am blessed that my son is a “techie” and was able to recover most of my information from my hard drive. Times of crisis can also be opportunities to make changes. I made the move from a PC to a Mac! The transition has been time consuming and frustrating with more trips to the Genius Bar at the Apple store than I care to count. But I am excited about the creative possibilities.
My personal emotional “crash” forced me to learn new ways of coping with my illness and to learn a new “operating system” for my life. My old computer is now an expensive paperweight. But it is also a reminder that, while change can be difficult, with the help of others we can move toward new life and new possibilities.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119