Even while we are in the midst of summer many of us are beginning to think about the fall. The stores are full of back to school supplies. Labor Day is often seen as the end of summer. We mostly get our beaches back and amusement parks back from the tourists in San Diego after the Labor Day weekend with many going back to school.
A number of people I know will soon become “empty nesters” as their last child leaves for college.For many college students the first time they are away from home is when they enter higher education. The college experience is challenging for all students as they navigate through making new friends, achieving academic success, establishing their identity, learning to live independently, and planning their futures. It is a time of transition for both families and students.
A recent study from the American Psychological Association found that severe mental illness is more common among college students now than it was a decade ago. This increase is due in part to the fact that more students have sought treatment for mental health issues before entering college.
There is heightened awareness of the importance of having quality mental health services available for students on university and college campuses. At present, access to such services is not consistently found across the country. There are numerous reasons for this including stigma, inadequate financial investment in mental health services and the difficulty of coordinating the delivery and provision of mental health services in higher education settings.
Mental Health Ministries has a brochure with information on how we can all make a difference by raising awareness combating stigma and advocating for the overall well being of college students...mind, body and spirit. This brochure is available on the Home page and in the brochure section.
With thanks to the INGENIUM group in Monterrey, Mexico, this brochure is also available in Spanish.
The NAMI national convention was held in Seattle a few weeks ago. The NAMI FaithNet offerings were well attended and there was much positive support to include a person’s faith and spirituality in the treatment and recovery process. I was inspired by the dedication of family members working on behalf of loved ones to erase stigma and learn about resources to help their loved ones. For many of them, their faith sustained them as they lived with the challenges surrounding mental illness.
My husband and were among the persons interviewed for an ABC TV documentary produced by Third Way Media, Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness. We were given permission to use some of the “bonus material” available on that DVD to lift up the challenges faced by spouses in dealing with mental illness. For more information on this documentary, go to http://www.shadowvoices.com. This documentary is also available on Netflix.
My husband was very articulate about the challenges of having a spouse (that would be me) when I was first hospitalized. The edited video, For Better or Worse: A Couple’s Journey with Mental Illness, is now available in the Video portion of the Resources section on the Mental Health Ministries website. We are also featuring it on the Home page or you can go to the link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxTDTqo0qS4.
Some years ago my husband, Stan, was asked to write down a list of ways to help a loved one living with mental illness. He wrote, Coping with a Loved One's Depression. He gets more “fan mail” than I do! This resource is in the Resource section and is also featured on the Home page. It is also available in Spanish.
I lifted up this book last month but am putting it in again since this Spotlight focuses on families. As a pastoral caregiver, you may have met with someone in your congregation who persistently demonstrated a sad, morose mood…or someone who suffered from an addiction…or someone whose behavior seemed out of touch with reality. But you may not have understood what these attitudes and behaviors meant, and you may not have known what you ought to do in response. Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families brings together the voices of eighteen psychiatrists and pastoral theologians who collaborate to offer recent information about mental illness, to interpret mental illness in the light of faith, and to suggest effective ministerial responses. This book offers an integrated dialogue between psychiatrists and pastoral caregivers that can surface the most relevant information for readers. It also seeks to encourage conversation among people in congregations around the experiences of a faith community when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness. Specific illnesses addressed include depression, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, substance-use disorders, eating disorders, autism, acquired brain injury, and dementia. A concluding chapter discusses psychopharmacology. One unique element of this book is the extensive bibliography that appears at the end of each chapter. Many of the items in these bibliographies are web-based resources that feature free information and help.
Here is credible information on the realities of mental illness and how pastors and congregations can best respond. Robert H. Albers, William H. Meller, Steven D. Thurber, Editors. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.
Be sure to sign up to get the NAMI FaithNet newsletter and check out the NAMI FaithNet website for a wide range of resources. A number of NAMI affiliates across the country are piloting our resources, Reaching Out to Faith Communities and Bridges of Hope. Both Reaching Out to Faith Communities and Bridges of Hope are available to be downloaded from the NAMI FaithNet micro-site at www.nami.org/namifaithnet.
Handouts and PowerPoints of the some of the NAMI convention sessions are be available at: http:www.nami.org/convention/fingertips
Pathways to Promise is another good source for resources to educate congregations about mental illness. You can download three modules, Mental Health 101, Organizing a Mental Health Team in Your Congregations and Companionship: A Ministry of Presence. These training modules include a presenters guide and are available at www.Pathways2Promise.org.
Religion and Ethics News Weekly from June 22, 2012 featured an article, Churches and the Mentally Ill. There is also an eight minute video that shares some models of what faith communities are doing in different areas of the country. Included in the video is Rev. Craig Rennebohm, Executive Director for Pathways to Promise.
Clinical psychologist Richard Roukema understands the common roles played by clergy and psychiatrists who care for congregants struggling with mental and emotional illnesses. He appreciates the spiritual dimension of healing as an integral part of care for the emotionally distressed religious patient. This book examines the history of psychiatry, addresses current research into brain chemistry, and discusses the success of modern medicine to correct or control symptoms of mental disorders.
Roukema systematically addresses a wide range of mood disorders, neuroses, personality disorders and traits, sexual and eating disorders, and the effects of loss and stress. He provides clear and useful information aimed at giving clergy the necessary tools to recognize and understand the care and treatment that might be appropriate for the affected person. He consistently points to ways the clergy can most effectively provide support and resources for the patient and family. Issues of pastoral ethics, as well as self-care, are addressed. Roukema concludes with guidance in the referrals of patients.
What could have been a voluminous text filled with medical jargon and little contact with the role of clergy turns out to be a concise, yet thorough, educational and reference book that deserves a special place on the bookshelf of pastors and counselors alike. Seminaries would do well to consider using this text in courses on pastoral care and counseling.
We want to hear from YOU! Without the religious holidays, summer is a time to try new ways to educate about mental illness. To share what is happening in your congregation, faith group or community to erase the stigma of mental illness and provide caring and compassionate support for persons affected by mental illness, contact Mental Health Ministries through the website or send your ideas by contacting Susan. We will include it in the It Worked For Us section under Models of Ministry.
The NAMI national convention will be held in Seattle, WA, Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 30, 2012. The theme is Think Learn Live: Wellness, Resiliency and Recovery. There will be several offerings on spirituality and mental illness. One session will focus on finding out what other NAMI Affiliates and NAMI members are doing to create supportive congregations for people affected by mental illness. Some of these ideas will be featured on the NAMI FaithNet microsite. You can sign up to receive the newsletter, access the NAMI FaithNet training modules and the many other resources at http://www.nami.org/faithnet
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.
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.
I came to get away from the noise of my hectic work life - the ringing of the telephone, the sounds of the computer, the buzz of office business, even the words of those who come to me to talk. And so I carefully planned my “get-away” to a sacred place where I knew I would be renewed by connecting with nature in solitude.
After a day dealing with taxi cabs, canceled and delayed airplane flights, traffic tie-ups and trying to find my way in an unfamiliar town, I finally arrived at my place of refuge...a place I had been before...a place of healing.
I dumped my unpacked luggage in my cabin and made my way to the high-back rocking chair waiting for me on the porch overlooking the lake. I was in desperate need of quiet and solitude. As I closed my eyes to breathe in the fall mountain air, I felt a gust of wind and heard a rushing sound. I opened my eyes to the sight and sound of hundreds of colored leaves, caught in a whirlwind, spinning and turning as they made their way to the soft, carpeted earth below. It was a beautiful sight. Yet, I closed my eyes again...seeking silent solitude.
Soon there was a strange rustle in the mounds of fallen leaves. I opened my eyes to find two squirrels digging in the piles, then scampering up and down the trees with their finds. I smiled inside and closed my eyes again.
Not many minutes passed before my silent solitude was again interrupted...this time by a flock of geese landing on the lake stirring up the calm water. Their grace and beauty caused me to watch them for some time, until, quite unexpectedly, as if answering to an inner call; the flock rose from the water as one and disappeared into the twilight sky.
I didn’t close my eyes again. I watched and listened as other birds went about their business of gathering food. I watched and heard a lizard run under the porch. I watched the trees and heard the wind as it surrounded me with a cool breeze. And I heard, in the distance, a leaf blower machine. I watched and listened to the sounds of the lake water lapping against the shoreline.
I had come to this place with my own agenda...to find rest in quiet solitude. Instead my senses were awakened to life in the now. I was gifted with noise in the solitude. It would take more time sitting in the rocking chair to find the quiet solitude within.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119