Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight - Winter 2015

In this New Year we continue our commitment and passion to use the Mental Health Ministries website and our Spotlights to help provide resources to address the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities. This issue of our e-Spotlight lifts up a number of books, websites and articles that address some of the issues surrounding faith/spirituality and mental health. 

The Christian Citizen Magazine – Communities of Care: The Church and Mental Illness

One in four U.S. Americans annually experiences mental health issues ranging in severity from temporary psychological distress to serious depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, yet less than one-third of these persons receives appropriate care, often because of the stigma associated with these illnesses and their treatments. American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) wants to help change these statistics for the better. That is why we are providing leadership through the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities, in its partnership with the American Psychiatric Association (APA). This effort brings together religious leaders and psychiatrists to determine how we can better collaborate to reduce stigma and provide help and healing for those with mental health conditions.

This issue of The Christian Citizen Magazine includes:

  • EDITORIAL Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership to Reduce Stigma and Provide Help and Healing
  • Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond
  • A Call to Healing
  • Depression Idols, Demons and Grace
  • It Takes a Community
  • Psychiatry and the Faith Community in Partnership
  • NAMI FaithNet A Lifeline and a Network
  • WISE and Caring Congregations: Creating a Safe Haven for People in Your Church Who Have a Mental Illness
  • Youth Leaders as Instruments of Transformation and Hope
  • Doing Small Things with Extraordinary Love
  • Admitting Our Powerlessness
  • The Pizza Mass
  • A Welcoming and Supportive Environment for Latinos
  • A Deep Well of Meaning
  • Be Still
  • When the Caregiver Needs Care
  • Sand Dollar
  • Spiritual insights for parents, clergy, and churches ministering to special needs families. 

A PDF file of this magazine can be viewed by clicking here.

APA Webpage – Mental Health & Faith Community Partnership

Mental Health & Faith Community PartnershipThe Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership is a collaboration between psychiatrists and clergy aimed at fostering a dialogue between the two fields, reducing stigma, and accounting for medical and spiritual dimensions as people seek care. The convening organizations are 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). The APA webpage can be found here.

Video – Mental Illness in the Church

Listen in as Kelly Rosati, Dr. Ed Stetzer and Dr. Jared Pingleton discuss the reality and severity of mental health in the church and the responsibility the church has in caring for its members facing this issue. Click here to view.

Book – A Pastor's Guide for the Shadow of Depression

A Pastor's Guide for the Shadow of DepressionPastors face unique challenges and unrealistic expectations that can lead to feelings of failure, deep sadness, and depression. Too often they feel no one understands, as if there’s nowhere to turn.  In this book, Dr. Gary Lovejoy comes alongside pastors to help them recognize when they may be depressed so they can find help and make needed changes. Even more, Dr. Lovejoy identifies assertive ways pastors can address critical issues before the shadows begin to envelop them.  Depression is a warning sign that won’t simply go away on its own. Every pastor should read this guide, even if they’ve never felt depressed. It may be the lifeline you need at a critical time.  Available from the Wesleyan Publishing House.

Book – Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder

Healthy Living with Bipolar DisorderThe International Bipolar Foundation (IBF) has released a second edition of their free book, Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder.  This resource has a wealth of helpful information divided into three sections: About Bipolar Depression, Healthy Living and Resources.  The chapters address topics such as treatment modalities, suicide, substance abuse, stigma, family relationships, college students, work place and support for caregivers.  A chapter, “Mental Illness and Families of Faith” was written by Susan Gregg-Schroeder.  The PDF file can be downloaded by clicking here.

Book – The Minister's Guide to Psychological Disorders and Treatment, Second Edition (Routledge, 2014)

The Minister's Guide to Psychological Disorders and TreatmentThe Minister’s Guide to Psychological Disorders and Treatments, 2nd ed, is written by W. Brad Johnson and William L. Johnson, widely renowned religious psychotherapists and psychotherapy researchers.  This book is described by the publisher as “a thorough yet succinct guide to everything a minister might need to know about the most common psychological disorders and the most useful mental-health treatments. Written in straightforward and accessible language, this is the minister’s one-stop guide to understanding common mental health problems, helping parishioners who struggle with them, and thinking strategically about whether to refer—and if so, to whom. This thoroughly updated edition is fully aligned with the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) and the latest evidence regarding evidence-based psychological treatments. The second edition also contains a new chapter on ministerial triage as well as additions to the DSM-V such as autism spectrum disorder and somatic symptom disorders. Written with deep empathy for the demands of contemporary pastoring, this guide is destined to become an indispensable reference work for busy clergy in all ministry roles and settings.” Available for $39.95 (paperback) at Routledge Mental Health.

FREE e-Book – Serving Those with Mental Illness

Serving Those with Mental IllnessFocus on the Family in partnership with LifeWay Research is offering a free e-book with new and relevant research findings concerning mental illness in the church. This book was developed to summarize LifeWay Research’s most recent study: Protestant Pastor Views on Acute Mental Health, and help you take the important steps to minister to those suffering from mental illness in your church.  This short e-book provides a summary of the latest research findings from LifeWay Research on mental health & the church, along with helpful articles, brief medical overviews for acute mental illness and recommended resources.  For more information on the study and to request a copy of the e-book, click here.

Article – More Pastors Embrace Talk of Mental Ills

Studies show that during episodes of stress, grief and depression, more Americans turn to clergy than mental health professionals. Yet many new pastors like Mr. Brogli feel overwhelmed and ill equipped to help. Conservative Protestant seminaries offer little education in psychology, instead favoring courses on pastoral counseling with prayer and reading the Bible.

In a study by Matthew Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, 71 percent of Baptist pastors said they were unable to recognize mental illness.  In another study, he found that while 55 of 70 seminaries offered pastoral counseling electives, directors said that students were often unable to fit them into their schedules. View the article on the New York Times.

Video – Bridging The Gap Between Religion and Mental Illness

Every year, more than 42 million Americans are suffering from at least one form of mental illness. Many who struggle with these issues turn to spirituality to help find guidance during their times of distress. But talking openly about mental illness has not quite lost its stigma, and religious leaders have different approaches to deal with it, further complicating the relationship between religion and mental health.
HuffPost Live explored the various ways differing religious sects address mental health and why stigma and misinformation still remain among the faithful. Mike Fewster, a pastor at Virginia's New Life Christian Church, shared his “eye-opening” experience with bipolar disorder and Pastor Dianne Young, from Atlanta's Full Gospel Baptist Church, described how her congregation drastically changed after one member took her own life.  The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Article – Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors

Focus on the Family, working with LifeWay Research, conducted a study of acute mental illness and Christian faith.  The objectives of the research were to 1) equip family members and church leaders care for those suffering from mental illness 2) help family members and church leaders discern the spiritual state of loved ones suffering from mental illness.  One in four Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many look to their church for spiritual guidance in times of distress. But they’re unlikely to find much help on Sunday mornings.

The study found that most protestant senior pastors (66 percent) seldom speak to their congregation about mental illness.  That includes almost half (49 percent) who rarely (39 percent) or never (10 percent), speak about mental illness. About 1 in 6 pastors (16 percent) speak about mental illness once a year. And about quarter of pastors (22 percent) are reluctant to help those who suffer from acute mental illness because it takes too much time. 

The study found that pastors and churches want to help those who experience mental illness. But those good intentions don’t always lead to action. There are key disconnects revealed in the summary of the findings, such as:

  • Few churches have plans to assist families affected by mental illness
  • Few churches are staffed with a counselor skilled in mental illness
  • There is a lack of training for leaders on how to recognize mental illness
  • There is a need for churches to communicate to congregations about local mental health resources
  • There is a stigma and culture of silence that leads to shame

The article is available LifeWay Research. To download the full Lifeway Research study, click here.

Article – 4 Misconceptions About Mental Illness and Faith

Andrea Jongbloed lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada and is the Concurrent Disorders Peer Support Coordinator at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. She shares in Relevant Magazine her struggle with bipolar disorder and offers helpful commentary on a few misconceptions about mental illness.

  • People With Mental Health Conditions are Unsafe.
  1. People With Mental Illnesses are Unpredictable and Difficult to Relate to.
  2. Most People With Mental Illnesses are on Welfare or Homeless.
  3. People With Mental Illnesses Would Rather Not Talk About it.

Available online at Relevant Magazine.

Article – The Truth About Mental Illness and Gun Violence

Sandy Hook PromiseOn November 14, 2014, the Sandy Hook Promise group held their first Promise Day where thousands of people across the country held conversations in their homes, schools, places of worship and community organizations to talk about how to protect children from gun violence.  An article, The Truth About Mental Illness and Gun Violence can be viewed by clicking here.

Organizing a Successful Conference

With the busy holiday season behind us, many congregations and collaborative groups are looking ahead to planning a workshop or conference to address spirituality/faith and mental illness.  We know that education is the first step in desigmatizing mental illness.  Mental Health Ministries offers a handout to help your planning committee begin to think about planning an event appropriate to your needs.  It is helpful to see what other groups are doing and two upcoming conferences are included in this Spotlight.  There are some basic ideas and a suggested schedule for a half day or full day conference on our website.

It Worked For Us

We can learn from each other. The Models of Ministry page on the Mental Health Ministries website is a way for faith communities to share what they are doing…what has worked and what the challenges have been. How did your ministry get started? Where did you find the support and encouragement to move forward? What resources did you find helpful? Each congregation is unique and will create ministries appropriate to the needs of their community.

There are many exciting and creative ministries out there! Seeds are being planted and many are flourishing in surprising ways. Because it is an ever evolving and changing landscape, staffing and funding cutbacks impact outreach programs. Therefore, it is not possible to keep a current list of active ministries. Instead my hope is that the models shared may be a springboard to provide ideas and encouragement to begin or expand a mental health ministry in your own garden.

You are invited and encouraged 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. You can contact Mental Health Ministries through the website or by e-mailing Susan at

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Snippets from Susan

After the often busy and hectic holiday season, many of us approach the New Year as a time to look at our lives and commit to make those changes that help us to be the best persons we can be.  While well-intentioned, most of the resolutions and goals we make are not lasting.  We are often not realistic in approaching the changes we would like to make, which can make us feel like a failure.  There is nothing magical about January 1.  It is more important to be honest with ourselves and find small and realistic ways throughout the year, knowing that God is working in our lives no matter what our circumstances.  Transformation, new life and new beginnings have no start or end date.

I invite you to come along with me as a Sojourner in Faith throughout this New Year.

     Come along with me
        as a sojourner in faith.
     Bring along
        a sense of expectancy
        a vision of high hopes
        a glimpse of future possibility
        a vivid imagination
     For God's creation is not done.
     We are called to pioneer forth
        toward a future yet unnamed.
     As we venture forward,
        we leave behind our desires for
            a no-risk life
            worldly accumulations
            certainty of answers.
     Let us travel light
        in the spirit of faith and expectation
        toward the God of our hopes and dreams.
     Let us be a witness
        to God's future breaking in.
     Come along with me
        as a sojourner in faith
        secure in the knowledge
        that we never travel alone.         

                    Susan Gregg-Schroeder


Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119