January 1 became generally recognized as New Year’s Day in the 1500’s when the Gregorian calendar was introduced. It became a holy day in the Christian community and initially parties were not allowed on this day. Other cultures and faiths celebrate the “new year” on different dates. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is celebrated in late September or early October and concludes with Yom Kippur, the most important day of the Jewish calendar. Muslims celebrate the New Year (Amon Jadid) during Muharram, the first month of Hijrah. The Chinese have used the lunar calendar for 4000 years.
While different cultures and faiths celebrate the “new year” at different times of the year, they all mean starting over and looking toward the new. A theme shared by these major faith traditions is the retelling of their “story,” a time to examine one’s personal life including relationships with family and friends and a time to make amends and seek to reconcile differences.
We are still a nation in mourning following the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Houses of worship opened their doors and became sanctuaries for persons who needed to pray, to grieve and to find comfort. Even President Barack Obama brushed away tears as he spoke the day of the shooting. In his struggle for composure, he joined the rest of us, stunned and sorrowed by the news. Like Job, we struggle with why this happened and what God has to do with suffering. News commentators filled the airtime with speculations on the motives of the shooter. Hopefully this will result in awareness and accessibility to help for all kinds of brain disorders.
We also watched the devastating results of Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing after effects that continue in the devastated communities. Again people came together for comfort and support and many people of faith asked “why.” There are no easy answers to why we suffer. But I believe God is with us in the midst of our despair. God is present with us in the midst of our suffering. God is present when people come together to share their grief. God is present when we offer the “ministry of presence” to just “be” with someone in pain rather than trying to offer answers. God is present when people are moved to reach out to others in acts of kindness.
Mental Health Ministries has a brochure to address the psychological effects of trauma, Transforming Psychological Trauma: How Faith Communities Can Promote Healing. This brochure helps congregations recognize symptoms and provide support to person dealing with psychological trauma from interpersonal events and other traumatic events like natural disasters, traumatic events like Sandy Hook and the other senseless shootings as well as the effects of war. I hope it can be used as a way to begin a discussion about how faith communities can support those who have experienced trauma of all kinds. It is available by clicking here.
We also have a video, Out of the Ashes: Transforming Trauma, based on the experience of a member of the Mental Health Ministries Advisory Committee who lost her home to one of the devastating fire storms in San Diego.
Click here to view the video, Out of the Ashes: Transforming Trauma.
As we all continue to reflect on the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, issues of mental health and access to care are coming into national conversations. Rev. Monica Coleman writes and speaks about faith and depression. Her most recent article written for The Huffington Post is available at “Losing Faith, Finding Hope: a Journey with Depression.”
Mental Health and Faith
A scholar and activist, Monica A. Coleman is committed to connecting faith and social justice. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Coleman has earned degrees at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. Coleman is currently Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology in southern California. She is also Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University.
Coleman’s writings focus on the role of faith in addressing critical social issues. In her most recent book, Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression, Coleman offers a 40-day devotional wrestling with depression in a spiritual context. For more information on Rev. Coleman’s work and writings, visit her website at http://monicaacoleman.com/
Rev. Barbara Meyers, a Unitarian Universalist pastor, has produced a monthly show on mental health issues called “Mental Health Matters.” It is shown on cable television and individual shows can be purchased. All are available online. Congregations have used the programs, augmented with local speakers, for an adult religious education offering focused on mental health. Suggested questions for discussion and resources for further information are found on-line accompanying each show.
Below is a note from Barbara describing some of her work and providing permission for faith communities and others to access and use these shows.
I'm delighted to announce I am now producing a new series of short YouTube-based videos Stories of Recovery featuring real, honest, and inspirational stories of mental health recovery - all told from consumers or family members themselves, and each told in just 5-7 minutes. Once per month, viewers will learn how a different person has defied the odds and thrived in spite of mental health challenges.
In the video series debut, renowned advocate Jay Mahler shares his decades-long relationship with the mental health system. Hear about his first encounter with treatment and how that experience catalyzed a lifelong commitment to consumer rights activism. Here is the link:
Archive: If you want to see any previous episodes of this show, go to:
You have my permission to copy this notice to others in your agency or congregation who may find it useful.
Rev. Barbara F. Meyers
A special issue (Sept 2012) of the peer-review journal Depression Research and Treatment includes 10 articles on religion, spirituality and depression: an editorial, a review article, and eight articles (seven original data-based reports) on this topic. Research and articles are a publication of the Duke Center for Spirituality, Theology & Health.
Being an open-access journal, all papers are downloadable as PDF files for free. I encourage you to subscribe to Crossroads as they often have excellent articles related to spirituality and health. To view the articles as a group, go to our website at: http://www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu/publications/research-publications.html
To view a specific articles use the links below.
7. A pilot survey of clergy regarding mental health care for children (Blalock & Dew)
I get many requests to use the Mental Health Ministries in some way. I appreciate that these people respect and acknowledge copyright issues as it is common to “borrow” material from others. You do not need permission to use the Mental Health Ministries resources for nonprofit educational activities. Our mission is to provide a wide variety of resources for you to use in your setting. It is a gift when you share how the resources were used and the response. I may ask some of you to share your ideas in the Models of Ministry section on our website. And feel free to pass on our Spotlight e-newsletter to others.
In addition to using our print resources, our hope is that you will find our 14 You Tube video clips helpful in your work. We hope to produce two more shows this year…one on suicide and another on the challenges of caring for an adult child with a mental illness. If you are interested in helping to sponsor one of these shows, contact me.
Coming Out of the Dark Intro
Teenage Depression and Suicide
Overcoming Stigma Finding Hope
Addiction and Depression
Creating Caring Congregations
Mental Illness and Families of Faith
Jewish Families of Faith
Out of the Ashes: Transforming Trauma
Mental Illness and Older Adults
Gifts of the Shadow
For Better or Worse: A Couple’s Journey with Mental Illness
The sharing of personal stories and experiences provides a way to give voice to those who have suffered in silence, and allows churches to begin the process of reaching out and providing compassionate care to those affected by disorders of the brain. A Discussion Guide is included that provides a brief overview of each segment and some questions to help generate discussion among group members.
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.
The Future Comes One Day at a Time
By now many of you have seen the excellent movie, Lincoln. While the movie only covers the last few months of Lincoln’s life, Daniel Day-Lewis’ thoughtful portrait of Abraham Lincoln gives a glimpse of how his political strengths were rooted in his most personal struggles.
I recommend Joshua Wolf Shenk’s book, Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, because it gives insight into Abraham Lincoln as a man who suffered greatly because of his depression. We know Lincoln as the emancipator of slaves and as the man who held our country together in its darkest hour. But few of us know the full extent of his depression, his suicidal ideations and how he lived with a tortured mind.
Yet it was Lincoln’s creative use of his personal suffering, his perseverance, his sense of humor, his desire to help others, and his friends who stood by him in his emotional pain to remind him that he was not alone, that allowed him to achieve greatness. He was also a man of religious faith and Shenk’s book shares how these beliefs allowed Lincoln to use his faith as a source of comfort and hope.
People often think that those of us who live with a chronic mental illness are unable to function. Lincoln modeled one way to live in that tension between accepting and living with his illness while losing himself in service to others. Lincoln’s dedication to his work kept him going even though he felt he was a personal failure. By holding together his emotional turmoil and his dedication to his work for others, he was also able to hold together a hurting country. Shenk writes, “The hope is not that the suffering will go away, for with Lincoln it did not go away. The hope is that suffering, acknowledged and endured, can fit us for the surprising challenges that await.”
Sometimes circumstances in life can feel overwhelming. I hope we can begin the New Year remembering Lincoln’s words, “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119