Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight - September 2015

National Suicide Prevention Week – September 8-14


World Suicide Prevention Day – September 10

September is Alcohol and Drug Recovery Month


The September e-Spotlight features resources on suicide and recovery.  Mental Health Ministries has a section with resources on spirituality/faith and suicide in the Resource list on our website. Some of the resources lifted up in this e-Spotlight are included on our website.  We encourage you or your faith community to share your resources with us so that we can continue to provide helpful tools to educate and support those affected by suicide.

Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide Prevention WeekNational Suicide Prevention Week (NSPW) is a week-long campaign to inform and engage health professions and the general public about suicide prevention and the warning signs of suicide.  The campaign strives to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic as it raises awareness.  As part of the campaign, health organizations conduct depression screenings, including self-administered and on-line tests.  NSPW awareness events are held throughout the week corresponding to World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th. 

Mental Health Ministries DVD - Stories of Healing and Hope: PTSD, Trauma and Suicide

Stories of Healing and Hope: PTSD, Trauma & SuicideThe Mental Health Ministries DVD, Stories of Healing and Hope: PTSD, Trauma and Suicide, includes three shows: Out of the Ashes: Transforming Trauma, PTSD: Healing and Hope and Suicide and Healing After the Death of a Loved One.  The show, Suicide: Healing After the Death of a Loved One 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.  This DVD is available on the Mental Health Ministries website.  Click here to see a flyer with details on this resource and information on how to order.

Mental Health Ministries Brochure – Suicide: How Faith Communities Can Provide Hope and Promote Healing

Suicide BrochureMore than 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.  It is this country's 10th leading cause of death.  Among youth aged 15 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.  Our faith communities can be a place to talk openly about suicide, to provide education on recognizing the signs and symptoms and a place to offer care and support for persons touched by suicide.

The brochure, How Faith Communities Can Provide Hope and Promote Healing includes suicide facts and figures, risk factors and warning signs, what you can do as an individual and faith communities can promote healing.  It is available as a free download on our website.  It is also available in Spanish.

Video from Mental Health Ministries – Teenage Depression and Suicide

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.  The full show is available on the Mental Health Ministries DVD set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond or on YouTube.  A short clip excerpted from the complete show is on You Tube.

Documentary – Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide

Fierce GoodbyeIn Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide, five loving and courageous families take you to the innermost depths of their heartbreak and pain to bring hope and healing to others dealing with the numbing aftereffects of suicide. Additional families, individuals, mental health experts, Bible scholars and theologians add their experiences and insights in dealing with the issue of suicide. The documentary is a groundbreaking look at the role of faith and suicide: where is my loved one now? Can they be forgiven? How I can still have faith and go on. Hosted by Judy Collins, the program also features Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.
The film can be purchased from Mennonite Media and a trailer is available on YouTube.

The Role of Faith Communities in Suicide Prevention: A Guidebook for Faith Leaders

Role of Faith Communities in Suicide PreventionThe purpose of this guidebook is to prepare leaders of faith communities to prevent, intervene and respond to the tragedy of suicide. The concept for this guidebook grew out of an increasing understanding that suicide affects a significant number of people in all walks of life and that people often turn to their faith communities in times of crisis. Knowing how to respond in the moment of a suicidal crisis can be an anxiety-provoking experience. We hope to provide a guide to help alleviate this anxiety by providing knowledge, preparation and support within the context of a community.  The Role of Faith Communities in Suicide Prevention: A Guidebook for Faith Leaders is a product of a publication of the Carson J Spencer Foundation with support from Regis University and Jefferson Unitarian Church.  The authors give permission for appendices at the end of the book to be copied and used freely by the readers in their faith community settings. This PDF file is available for download on the MHM website, or by clicking here.

Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry

The Mission of the Suicide Prevention Ministry is to reduce the number of people who die by suicide through awareness, education and advocacy actions that reduce the stigma of suicide.  The website lists a number of helpful resources.

The Role of Clergy in Preventing Suicide - The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention identified the clergy as "key gatekeepers" — people who regularly come into contact with individuals or families in suicidal distress. This guide offers details about caring for such individuals and walking the fine line between spiritual support and mental health counseling.

Telling Secrets - Telling Secrets is a 6-series DVD series on Mental Illness, Depression, and Substance Abuse ready to use in congregations. View the introduction on YouTube.

Book - After a Suicide: Recommendations for Religious Services and Other Public Memorial Services

After a SuicideThis brief guide was created by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center to aid faith community leaders and other community leaders. It provides background information, suggests ways to care for and support survivors, and offers recommendations for planning a memorial observance.  This PDF file is available for download on the MHM website, or by clicking here.

Book – A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression

Relentless HopeDepression 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.

Gary also has an educational video to use with teenagers, “Teen Depression & Suicide: Teens Surviving the Storm,” about depression and suicide.

Book – A Second Day: A Hopeful Journey Out of Suicidal Thinking

A Second DayIn the aftermath of three suicides in his community over a relatively short period, Fe Anam Avis co-founded the Community Response Team and discovered his life's purpose in the area of suicide prevention. In A SECOND DAY: A HOPEFUL JOURNEY OUT OF SUICIDAL THINKING the author asserts that suicide is a community problem that can only be addressed by the community. "A central theme of this book that threads through every chapter is that suicidal thinking is often a response to a benighted Soul, struggling to find authentic expression in communities that are hostile or indifferent to its existence. The Soul has a voice that will not be denied and a wisdom that is sound. As we begin to give dignity to that wisdom, we can redirect the suicidal impulse to its more constructive purpose: transformation."  This book is available on Amazon.

September is National Recovery Month

September is National Recovery MonthThe theme for Recovery Month 2015 is Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable! The 2015 Recovery Month theme highlights the value of peer support in educating, mentoring, and helping others. The theme invites individuals in recovery and their support systems to be catalysts and active change agents in communities, and in civic and advocacy engagements. It encourages individuals to start conversations about the prevention, treatment, and recovery of behavioral health conditions at earlier stages of life.

For many individuals, spirituality and faith are necessary to achieving and maintaining recovery. Therefore, faith leaders are essential community partners in inspiring and assisting people with mental and/or substance use disorders in their recovery process.

Faith leaders play key roles in promoting recognition of behavioral health issues so that people living with mental and/or substance use disorders realize they are not alone. By incorporating more frequent messages about the reality of recovery from mental and substance use disorders at services or in conversations, faith leaders may spark self-awareness for someone struggling with an issue or promote broader acceptance by the spiritual community.  For more information and free downloads visit the website.

Video from Mental Health Ministries – Addiction and Depression

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 and available on You Tube.

Book - Darkness is My Only Companion (Revised and Updated July 2015)

Darkness Is My Only CompanionWhere 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 to mental illness? In this brave and compassionate book, theologian and priest Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness--bipolar disorder. With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as suicide, mental hospitals, and electroconvulsive 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.

The first edition has been recognized as one of the finest books on the subject. This thoroughly revised edition incorporates updated research and adds anecdotal and pastoral commentary. It also includes a new foreword by the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a new afterword by the author. Available on Amazon.

Book - Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness

Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental IllnessIn Madness, Heather H. Vacek traces the history of Protestant reactions to mental illness in America. She reveals how two distinct forces combined to thwart Christian care for the whole person. The professionalization of medicine worked to restrict the sphere of Christian authority to the private and spiritual realms, consigning healing and care—both physical and mental—to secular, medical specialists. Equally influential, a theological legacy that linked illness with sin deepened the social stigma surrounding persons with a mental illness.  The Protestant church, reluctant to engage sufferers lest it, too, be tainted by association, willingly abdicated care for persons with a mental illness to secular professionals.  The book would be of interest to pastoral caregivers, seminary students, and anyone interested in the intersection of mental illness and Christianity.

It is available on Amazon or Baylor Press.

Article - Have a Little Faith

Have a Little Faith outlines the role that spirituality can play in recovery for those who believe in a beneficent higher power. The article interviews persons from different faith traditions and mental health providers.  It also addresses the issue of “religiosity.”  The article lifts up of several studies to conclude that religion/faith can be a source of hope and strength to those dealing with the challenges of mental illness.

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Snippets from Susan

MollyLast year a “rescue dog” came unexpectedly into our lives.  We were not planning on getting another dog as we still have our 14 year old dog.  But Molly needed us and, it turns out, I needed her.  I was facing several losses and some difficult transitions.  Molly became my “therapy dog.”

Many studies have demonstrated that all pets, not just therapy pets, can help your mind, body, and spirit.  Stroking a dog or cat, and even watching goldfish swim around in a bowl, have been linked to better cardiovascular health and an overall sense of well-being.

Those of us who share our homes with a pet don’t need studies to tell us what we already know.  When Molly cuddles up to me on the couch or runs in circles to say how happy she is that I am home, she lifts my spirit.  She offers an unconditional love that calms me when I feel stressed, anxious or depressed.  Her antics make me laugh.  Molly accepts me without judgment and gives me a sense of hope that, no matter what is happening in my life, “we” will persevere. 

Tomorrow morning I know my furry friend will be there to lick my face and wag her tail as we begin a new day…together.



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