In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). It is a time when mental health advocates across the country join with their communities to sponsor activities to provide education about mental illness. It is an opportunity to do something to raise awareness about mental illness in your faith community or to partner with community groups in your area for an event. 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:
NAMI is “Going Green!” Help shine a light on mental illness in your home, online or in your community. This year NAMI is coordinating with hundreds of people, landmarks and organizations across the country to get everyone to “go green.” NAMI has put together a toolkit of resources available at www.nami.org/miaw. NAMI FaithNet resources are available at www.nami/faithnet.org.
The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Awareness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, October 7, 2014. 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.
Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) is comprised of awareness events that include an optional screening component. National Depression Screening Day began as an effort to reach individuals across the nation with important mental health education and connect them with support services. Screening for Mental Health (SMH) pioneered National Depression Screening Day as the first, voluntary, mental health screening initiative in 1991. Twenty-three years later, NDSD has expanded to thousands of colleges, community-based organizations, and military installations providing the program to the public each year. This is an opportunity to refer members of your congregation to screening sites in your area. You can take a self-screening test on the NDSD website.
All too often the term "mental illness" evokes inaccurate, stigmatizing stereotypes. Studies estimate that one-half of people with treatable mental illness do not seek help because of the stigma. Mental health professionals discuss stigma, its affects and moving beyond stigma to hope. The complete show is available on the DVD set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith. A short clip from the longer show is available on the Mental Health Ministries YouTube channel.
I was privileged to be invited to Arlington, VA, for the first meeting of the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership Steering Committee. About forty psychiatrists and clergy/faith leaders gathered to foster a dialogue between two fields, reducing stigma and accounting for the medical and spiritual dimensions as people seek care. The convening organizations were the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF) and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy was one of the speakers. He said, “This partnership recognizes that what’s important is the health of the whole person. There should be no wrong path to seeking help. A stronger dialogue and a deeper understanding between our clergy, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can only enrich a person on the journey toward a healthy mind and a renewed spirit. With this partnership, faith and mental health leaders will be better equipped to understand the totality of an individual’s needs and values.”
This exciting partnership is moving ahead with finding ways to identify existing resources, create new resources and provide educational opportunities for both the medical and faith communities. A symposium will be offered at the APA conference in San Francisco October 30-November 2. I will be one of the persons participating in a symposium at this conference. The following three books come from American Psychiatric Publishing.
Psychiatry and religion both draw on the rich traditions of human thought and practice. The ways in which humans attempt to understand and interact with their world and give meaning to their lives have occupied philosophers, religious leaders, and scientists for centuries. Psychiatry is unique among the medical sciences in that, as it attempts to explain the full range of human behavior, it often ranges well beyond the realm of natural science and into that of philosophy. To deal with contemporary ethical issues, psychiatrists must be able to draw on a broad intellectual tradition not only in the biological sciences, but also in the humanities and social sciences, which encompass the comparative study of religion. Psychiatry and Religion addresses both the polarities and the unifying concepts between psychiatry and religion, with a unique focus on the point at which these two domains meet.
The relationship between spirituality and mental health has been the focus of growing interest and research over the last decade. However, the implications for psychiatric classification are only beginning to be systematically explored. Religious and Spiritual Issues in Psychiatric Diagnosis: A Research Agenda for DSM-V gathers for the first time the collective contributions of the prominent clinicians and researchers who participated in the 2006 Corresponding Committee on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry of the American Psychiatric Association.
This refreshing new work is a practical overview of religious and spiritual issues in psychiatric assessment and treatment. Eleven distinguished contributors assert that everyone has a worldview and that these religious and spiritual variables can be collaborative partners of science, bringing critical insight to assessment and healing to treatment. Unlike other works in this field, which focus primarily on spiritual experience, this clearly written volume focuses on the cognitive aspects of belief and how personal worldview affects the behavior of both patient and clinician. Informative case vignettes and discussions illustrate how assessment, formulation, and treatment principles can be incorporated within different worldviews, including practical clinical information on major faith traditions and on atheist and agnostic worldviews.
The Caring Clergy Project is sponsored by the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness. Statement from the Caring Clergy Project: We believe clergy can be an important link to helping their congregants get the mental health care they need. Whether you are Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic or something else, you may be the first person congregants turn to for comfort, guidance, and help when they are facing mental health issues. This website is designed to give you the background and tools you need to assist these congregants -- and their families and friends -- appropriately.
The website has a helpful page of links to interfaith resources as well as resources from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions.
W. Brad Johnson and William L. Johnson, father and son, both psychologists, bring together this easy-to-read manual for assessing psychological and psychiatric disorders. The authors include chapters on maladaptive personalities and childhood and relationship problems. Each chapter explains the disorders, provides a summary and pastoral guidelines and features sidebars listing key indicators of each illness. The exploration of mental health treatment includes descriptions of various types of therapy, psychiatric medications, alcohol and drug treatment programs, eating disorder treatment programs, hypnosis, and electro-convulsive therapy. The authors examine the value and problems of self-help books, as well as books recommended by Christian psychologists. Summaries of the ten top-rated self-help books and guidelines for evaluating self-help books are provided. A discussion of ethical standards and strategies for responding to unethical behavior rounds out this useful tool for any library of clergy or pastoral care-givers.
After serving for more than thirty years as a parish minister, the author was hospitalized with major depression. This is the story of his depression and recovery and a recovery of health, vocation, and faith. First, Griggs regained the experience of small pleasures. Eventually, he recovered the ability to choose, to set limits, and to accept reality. He then turned to the biblical Psalms-indeed his own writing echoes their candor. But he also found hope in films, including Breakfast at Tiffany's and Blazing Saddles. To the mental health issues facing clergy and others in the helping professions Griggs brings to bear insights from research and from his own experience as a pastor and a person recovering from depression. He tells his story with spirit and humor.
With insight born of experience and conviction, The Carter Center's Gary Gunderson suggests ways that congregations, religious leaders, and concerned individuals can take practical steps to improve the health of their communities. Eminently practical yet deeply religious, Gunderson's book will help people of faith nurture community life at its roots
The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center (near San Francisco, CA) has put together a 13 page Guidebook on the role of Jewish Clergy in the spiritual care of people living with mental illness. A PDF file of this resource can be downloaded on their website, as well as on Mental Health Ministries website in the Faith Group Resources section.
For other resources on mental illness from the Jewish Healing Center, visit their website.
The resource/study guide, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond is 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:
We encourage you to “Like” us on our Facebook page to get timely updates on resources, articles, and ideas of what other people are doing. We also encourage your comments and contributions.
“Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place… (Paiute Indian saying)
On our visit to Bryce Canyon National Park this summer, we learned that the red spindly rock formations that make up the magnificent canyon views are called hoodoos. Paiute Indians inhabited this region for hundreds of years before the arrival of European Americans. A sacred oral tradition of the Paiutes states that the hoodoos are ancient “Legend People” turned into stone by Coyote. Looking down into the amphitheaters at Bryce Canyon, it is easy to imagine the Legend People standing with their straight posture in the form of hoodoos. The name Bryce Canyon in Paiute means "bowl shaped canyon filled with red rocks standing up like men."
The hoodoos are ever changing due to the delicate balance between wind, rain and snow. Just as climate affects the hoodoos, so the many changes and challenges in our lives impact and shape us in ways we could never imagine. The challenges of mental illness also affect the lives of those who love and care for us.
I am one of those persons who denied and resisted the symptoms of mental illness. It was only when I could accept my illness and embrace myself as a child of God that I was able to move into recovery. I still find hope when I hear the stories of others. I pray that you would listen and learn from the “legend people” in your life who have faced mental health challenges and were transformed into persons who are able to stand up tall and live life abundantly.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119