The 39th annual national Suicide Prevention Week, Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together, is September 8-14, 2013. This week is held the Sunday through Saturday surrounding the World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th. Various events and activities are held to raise awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. For information and educational resources, visit http://www.suicidology.org/resources/nspw
Mental Health Ministries has produced two new resources to help educate congregations about suicide.
Mental Health Ministries has just released a video, Suicide: Healing After the Death of a Loved One. This show features an inspirational couple who lost their son to suicide. They share the story of how their faith community supported them and how they have used their painful experience to reach out to others.
More than 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year. It is this country's 10th leading cause of death, and is often characterized as a response to a single event or set of circumstances. However, unlike these popular conceptions, suicide is a much more involved phenomenon. The factors that contribute to any particular suicide are diverse and complex, so our efforts to understand it must incorporate many approaches. Faith communities need to talk openly about suicide and provide education about mental illness being a treatable illness instead of a moral or spiritual shortcoming. The brochure, How Faith Communities Can Provide Hope and Promote Healing is available as a free download on our website.
According to some studies, depression afflicts between 6% and 12% of American high school students. Depression in children and adolescents is easily missed unless parents, teachers, and medical personnel recognize its signs and symptoms. Without the ability to recognize these symptoms, the first inkling a parent may have of the severity of a child's illness is the tragedy of a completed suicide. Families and professionals review symptoms and recommend appropriate actions to take when it is suspected that a child or adolescent is at risk. View at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDImUMPGV5U
Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide is a documentary produced by Mennonite Media in 2004. In this video, family members reveal their intimate stories and aching pain to assist other survivors to help the broader community understand the unique and terrible grief of suicide. This documentary explores Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox responses to suicide. Judy Collins is the narrator and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is one of the persons interviewed. There is a study guide and other helps for faith leaders available at www.fiercegoodbye.com.
Faith communities can be a valuable resource in helping to increase public awareness about suicide and how to reduce the number of persons who take their life each year. This link, from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), provides helpful resources and other information to address suicide prevention as a faith community leader. http://www.sprc.org/sites/sprc.org/files/FaithCommunityLeaders.pdf
Depression and related illnesses threaten to wreck the lives of many teens and their families. Suicide driven by these illnesses is one of the top killers of young people. How do teens become depressed? What does depression feel like? How can we identify it? What helps depressed teens? What hurts them? How do families cope with teen depression?
In A Relentless Hope, Dr. Gary Nelson uses his experience as a pastor and pastoral counselor to guide the reader through an exploration of these and many other questions about depression in teens. He's worked with many teens over the years offering help to those confronted by this potentially devastating illness. The author also uses the story of his own son's journey through depression to weave together insights into the spiritual, emotional, cognitive, biological, and relational dimensions of teen depression. The book is written for those without formal clinical training, so it appeals to teens, parents, teachers, pastors, and any who walk with the afflicted through this valley of the shadow of death. Through careful analysis, candid self-revelation, practical advice, and even humor, this pastor, counselor, and father, reminds us God's light of healing can shine through the darkness of depression and offer hope for struggling teens and their families. http://www.survivingteendepression.com/
Gary also has an educational video to use with teenagers, “Teen Depression & Suicide: Teens Surviving the Storm”, about depression and suicide available at
National Recovery Month is a national observance that educates Americans on the fact that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. The main focus of the observance is to laud the gains made by those in recovery from these conditions, just as we would those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
Recovery Month, now in its 24th year, highlights individuals who have reclaimed their lives and are living happy and healthy lives in long-term recovery and also honors the prevention, treatment, and recovery service providers who make recovery possible. Recovery Month promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible, and also encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.
A free downloadable toolkit and other resources are available from SAMHSA at http://recoverymonth.gov/
Addiction and Depression 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. Our videos are available on You Tube and links are available in our Resource section on the website. Use this link to go directly to You Tube.
Due to many requests, the resource/study guide, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond, is now available for purchase in English or Spanish. It can still be downloaded from the website at no cost, but we are also offering it as a spiral bound print resource. Click here to order.
Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond is a tool designed to be used by clergy, members of the congregation, family members and anyone desiring to learn more about mental illness and how to respond with compassion and care. It can also be used as a small group study guide that is divided into four chapters with discussion questions at the end. The third chapter outlines the Caring Congregations five step model.
The four sections included in this resource/study guide include:
The Power of Story
I believe one of the most powerful ways to break down the stigma associated with mental illness is story. Stories have great power…transforming power. Part of this transforming power comes from the intimacy of storytelling that allows us to connect with others at a deep level. Stories can be vehicles for change and healing because they involve the listener or the reader in ways known only to him or her. We never know how the sharing of our stories may touch the lives of others.
One way to find meaning in the midst of our everyday life is through reading, telling or listening to the stories of others. Finding and sharing our personal story connects us with an intimate part of ourselves and mysteriously connects us with others and with our God. Many of the resources highlighted in this e-Spotlight touch our hearts because people have shared their stories as they have moved from loss, grief and despair to finding hope and healing through loving relationships with other people and with God.
I relate to the words of Sue Bender. Stories move in circles. They don’t go in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119