Mental Health Month was created 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all by Mental Health America. There are now designated times in May for groups to raise awareness and advocate for improvements in research, prevention and treatment on specific mental health issues. The first week in May, for example, has been designated as Children’s Mental Health Week. But the specific times are not as important as educating about all mental illnesses any time of the year.
Mental Health Ministries is featuring several downloadable resources that may be helpful in your planning. Many of our free print resources are available in Spanish.
The first week of May focuses on children and youth. Children’s Mental Health Week is a bulletin insert/flyer using the green ribbon symbol.
May is a great time to collaborate with other faith communities, mental health professionals and resources in your community to plan a conference. The article Guidelines for Organizing a Successful Conference can be found in the new Models of Ministry section, Organizing a Conference, on the website. There are PDF files of past conferences to give ideas.
We added a new section on the website and we are already making revisions based on your feedback. Models of Ministry includes four sections. The first one is a quick reference to the five step Caring Congregations Model. The second section, Organizing a Successful Conference, gives ideas for planning a conference along with some PDF brochures of sample conferences around the country. The third section, It Worked for Us, is an opportunity for you to share with others what has worked for you. The final section, Faith Group Resources, has the annotated Congregational Resource Guide of resources mentioned above along with highlighted publications from different faith groups and resources from other agencies designed for use by faith communities.
We want to hear from YOU! 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.
Carole Wills, M.A.R. challenges faith communities to move beyond the silence, ignorance, and prejudice that so often characterize congregational members in their relations with persons who suffer from mental illness. She has developed an extensive and fully annotated list of more than one hundred mental health ministry resources. A shorter list of ten most highly recommended resources for individual, small or large group use is also offered. Both lists include printed and audio-visual resources for faith communities, clergy and lay pastoral caregivers and the general public. In addition, links to mental health-related organizations are provided. The mental health ministry resources pages can be accessed at www.congregationalresources.org/mental-health-ministry-resources and the PDF file is available on the Mental Health Ministries website in the Faith Group Resources section under Models of Ministry.
The CRG (Congregational Resource Guide) is a project of the Alban Institute, and fully funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. as a free gift to America's Congregations. Their web site provides resources on every topic necessary for building “healthy bodies of worship and equipping them to become agents of transformation in the communities they exist.” www.congregationalresources.org.
Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder has just been released by the International Bipolar Foundation. I had the privilege of writing a chapter on spirituality in the Health Living section. The book is geared to both the person with bipolar disorder and their caregivers. Fourteen chapters, each written by an expert in the field, are included in a 3-ring binder. The Consumer Advisory Board for IBPF felt it was important for people to have an easily accessible "compendium" of information. The binder format allows users to add handouts from their mental health providers and update chapters without having to order a new book.
Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder is broken into 3-sections;
- About Bipolar Disorder including chapters on children & adolescents, suicide, substance abuse, medication treatment, stigma and pregnancy
- Healthy Living includes chapters on family life and relationships, nutrition, spirituality and faith, the workplace, college, social interactions and the caregiver
- Resources including Medication Charts (English & Spanish), Medication Side Effect Checklist, Mood Chart, Exercise Journal, Food Log, Doctor Contact Sheet, Questions to Ask Your Doctor, and U.S. and International Mental Health Resources.
In addition to these information rich chapters, the book has country-specific chapters written by consumers and professionals from countries around the world. There are currently eight such chapters with more being added weekly. This book is available free of charge at www.InternationalBipolarFoundation.org.
Rev. Barbara Myers, a community minister at Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fremont,produces a monthly public access television show ‘Mental Health Matters – Alameda County”, a program that explores mental health issues. Host Shannon Eliot explores the link between mental health recovery and spirituality in all forms featuring Minister Monique Tarver, Spirituality Liaison, Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services and Boona Cheema, Executive Director, Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency. You can watch this show at:
Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion is a new publication by noted religion writer Mark I. Pinsky. Pinsky has gathered stories from churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples across the country, "stories of people with disabilities and the congregations where they have found welcome." He has taken special care to include the widest range of disabilities, including non-apparent disabilities like lupus, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, depression, and mental illness. There were 54 million American with disabilities as of 2000, and that number is now being swelled by wounded warriors from the Afghan and Iraq wars and an aging population.
The author emphasizes that his purpose is to not to write a resource manual on accessibility and inclusion. Rather, Pinsky seeks to share stories of how people with disabilities have experienced their faith in the context of their disability, and how congregations have gained when they value the gifts that people with disabilities bring along. "This book," notes the author, "is for congregational leaders and others who may have no expertise or personal experience with disability, but who make the congregational decisions about accessibility and inclusion."
The book is divided into three parts: Empowering People and Congregations, Ministry by People with Disabilities and Family Members in Ministry. I am honored to be included as one of the stories shared in this book, The Gift of Hope. This book is available at http://www.alban.org/amazinggifts.aspx.
Stanford, author of Grace for the Afflicted, is a psychology professor at Baylor, with his doctorate in neuroscience and an invested researcher. Each day men and women diagnosed with mental disorders are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demonic possession, weak faith and generational sin. Why is it that the church has struggled in ministering to those with mental illnesses? As both a church leader and professor of psychology and neuroscience, Dr. Stanford has seen far too many mentally ill brothers and sisters damaged by well meaning believers who respond to them out of fear or misinformation rather than grace.
Grace for the Afflicted is written to educate Christians about mental illness from both biblical and scientific perspectives. Dr. Stanford presents insights into our physical and spiritual nature and discusses the appropriate role of psychology and psychiatry in the life of the believer. Describing common mental disorders, Dr. Stanford asks of each: "What does science say and what does the Bible say about this illness?" Dr. Stanford’s book can be directly ordered from Mental Health Grace Alliance (MHGA) at http://www.mentalhealthgracealliance.org/christian-mental-health-resources-books, or on Amazon.
Where is God in the suffering of a mentally ill person? What happens to the soul when the mind is ill? How are Christians to respond in the face of mental illness? In Darkness Is My Only Companion, Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness--bi-polar disorder.
With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as suicide, mental hospitals, and shock therapy. Greene-McCreight offers the reader everything from poignant and raw glimpses into the mind of a mentally ill person to practical and forthright advice for their friends, family, and clergy. Her voice is a comfort to those who suffer from mental illness and an invaluable resource for those who love and support them. This book can be purchased on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-My-Only-Companion-Christian/dp/1587431750/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b.
Caring for the Soul edited by Rabbi Richard Address, is a mental health resource and study guide that was specifically created in response to the need to raise awareness of and reduce the stigma within congregations and break down the barriers of shame and fear that often are associated with mental health issues in our congregations. It includes a selection of relevant sacred texts, traditional and modern readings for use in services and support groups, sample sermons, services and programs, background information on mental illnesses, related Reform response and UAHC resolutions, and other resources for congregations and individuals. This book is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Caring-Soul-Hanefesh-Mental-Resource/dp/0807408867 and can be purchased from the resources offered by Pathways to Promise at http://www.pathways2promise.org/resources/ptpmatls.htm
A good example of how a congregation responded to a need and collaborated with NAMI of Greater Cleveland is Avon Lake United Church of Christ. Last summer, Rev. Kelly Brill officiated at the funerals of five suicide victims. Brill said, “The common denominator in many of these cases was mental illness and substance abuse.” She decided to team with the NAMI affiliate of Greater Cleveland to offer a free, five-week class for friends and family members of people experiencing a mental illness. The class, led by three NAMI members, will teach students about mental illness and how to be supportive of their loved one. Brill commented that, “One of the roles of the church is to provide a community for one another and to help each other through difficult moments in life.” To read the article from Avon Patch visit http://avonlake.patch.com/articles/church-takes-on-mental-illness. If you have a story to share about what your faith community is doing, contact Susan and we will include it in our new Models of Ministry section, It Worked for Us.
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 offering available from NAMI FaithNet including opportunities to learn how other affiliates have used the NAMI FaithNet training resources, a workshop, Companionship and Caring Community: Resources for Recover, and a NAMI FaithNet Networking session to find out what other NAMI Affiliates and NAMI members are doing to create supportive congregations for people affected by mental illness. NAMI FaithNet's Advisory Group members will highlight the NAMI FaithNet mission and guidelines, brochure, web resources and more. For registration details, go to: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=convention
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.
Stigma Brought Home
I had foot surgery in January. I was “grounded” for six weeks. I had to be extra careful about infection until the pins were removed. Needless to say, it was a challenge for this active person to temporarily view the world as a person with a physical handicap. Most of my time was spent in my office at home (the couch) with my foot elevated. As a caregiver by nature, the most difficult thing for me was asking for help.
When I first got out of the house, I needed a wheelchair. I never did get my driver’s license for the wheelchair…and neither did my husband! I kept a sense of humor by rating the electric carts at various stores for comfort, turning radius, size of basket and ease of operation.
It was a new experience to view the world as a person with a visible disability. Most people were very accommodating and helpful. Some were not. Daily tasks I take for granted took more time and effort. The painful throbbing in my foot would let me know if I tried to do too much.
I have a handicap placard for a few months while I heal. Because I need it, I feel no stigma or shame. I couldn’t help but reflect on how very different it is for those of us living with an “invisible” mental illness. There is no placard or other designation that we may need some extra help and support. We often go to the other extreme of hiding our mental health challenges because we are afraid of being judged by others or we judge ourselves for not being “normal.”
I come away from this experience with a renewed passion for working with others to erase the stigma of mental illness in our society…and in our places of worship.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119