Spring is a time of renewal and new life. It has been a sacred time to watch a little hummingbird family in our back yard. The mother sat on her two little eggs, the babies hatched and gradually grew their feathers until they were ready to fly on their own. The mother hummingbird was so attentive to the needs of her young until they were old enough to be on their own. I took the photo of the nest, but a friend, Jerral Miles, has the equipment to get remote photos of the hummingbird family in his yard so as not to disturb the growing family.
May we all find ways to thank the people in our lives that have been there for us in caring and loving ways when we needed extra attention until we could fly on our own. And may we in turn be a caring presence to others.
Mental Health Month was created over 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all by Mental Health America. There are now designated times in May for groups to raise awareness and advocate for improvements in research, prevention and treatment on specific mental health issues. The first week in May, for example, has been designated as Children’s Mental Health Week.
We have updated and added new titles to the Resource section on the Mental Health Ministries website to help you find resources more easily. The May is Mental Health Month section has several downloadable resources specific to Mental Health Month including three downloadable bulletin inserts or flyers, May is Mental Health Month, Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents and Children’s Mental Health Week.
The Chicago Archdiocese Commission on Mental Illness has put together a helpful tool that includes 16 specific actions faith communities can do during Mental Health Month...or any time of the year. Since mental illness not only affects the individual with the disease but also family members, the needs of the entire family are addressed. We have included a PDF file of “Specific Actions” in the new May, Mental Health Month section.
While May is designated as Mental Health Month, educating about mental health issues is important any time of the year.
Mental Health Ministries has added another section, Training Curriculum, to quickly find training and teaching materials developed by various groups. We will continue to expand these sections as more resources addressing faith/spirituality and mental illness are developed and we welcome your contributions.
NAMI FaithNet has programs and presentations designed specifically to assist NAMI State Organization and NAMI Affiliate leaders with their faith outreach efforts. The NAMI website is in transition but you can find links to these training modules in the Program and Presentation section of the NAMI FaithNet Home page,www.nami.org/faithnet
Bridges of Hope is a three-part PowerPoint presentation created for NAMI members and friends who wish to speak to people of faith. Bridges of Hope is used to create stronger connections and safety nets for people living with serious mental illness in and through faith communities.
Reaching Out to Faith Communities is a four-part training curriculum provided by NAMI FaithNet to encourage and equip NAMI members to engage with and share their story and NAMI resources with local faith groups.
Sharing Hope is an outreach and education initiative, offered through NAMI’s Multicultural Action Center, aiming to create partnerships in African American faith communities.
PATHWAYS TO PROMISE offers The Companionship Series that consists of three booklets that guide faith communities in developing caring responses to individuals and families coping with the challenges posed by mental illness. You can purchase the entire Companionship Series through Pathways to Promise, www.pathways2promise.org, for $25.
Mental Health Ministry: An Introduction – The first booklet in the series provides an overview of the mental health challenges families face across the lifespan and that all faith communities face. This introductory booklet describes the basic structures of mental health ministry that can be developed to help people cope with mental illnesses and related challenges. It provides an introduction to the next two booklets in the series – The Way of Companionship and Organizing a Congregational Mental Health Team.
The Way of Companionship – Companionship is at the heart of a community’s caring response. The Companionship ministry described in this booklet was developed by Rev. Craig Rennebohm, a Mental Health Chaplain who for more than two decades worked on the streets of Seattle providing assistance to people experiencing mental illnesses and substance use challenges. Companionship includes listening, sharing the journey with a person side-by-side, neighboring (acknowledging our common humanity), providing hospitality, and helping develop a “circle of care.” This booklet describes how to develop and nurture these vital practices of companionship.
Organizing a Congregational Mental Health Team – A group of people dedicated to ensuring the community’s ongoing attention to mental health issues and to providing leadership in the development of caring responses is indispensable to the ongoing sustainability of mental health ministry. The Mental Health Team connects people to resources inside and outside of the faith community, identifies and plans necessary educational events for the congregation, and ensures the provision of support to people experiencing mental health challenges. This booklet also explains the ideal composition of the Mental Health Team and its connection to authoritative structures of the community.
There are many excellent educational resources developed by denominations and faith traditions in the Faith Group Resources section on our website. It includes resources developed by the Presbyterian Church USA, Church of the Brethren, Jewish Reform, Unitarian Universalist, Catholic Church and the Christian Reformed Church. Give Me Your Hand: A Guide to Mental Illness for Jewish Clergy compiled by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, from the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, is a new addition to this section.
In the Talmud the story is told of a time when Rabbi Yochanan fell ill and Rabbi Hanina came to visit him. Rabbi Hanina asked “Are these sufferings welcome to you?” Rabbi Yochanan answered, “Neither they nor their reward.” Rabbi Hanina saw that Yochanan was in pain and replied: “Give me your hand.” Rabbi Yochanan reached up his hand and Rabbi Hanina raised him up. Our Sages asked: “Why could Rabbi Yochanan not raise himself?” The tradition answers, “The prisoner cannot free himself from jail.” (Adapted from Babylonian Talmud Brachot 5b)
Resources collected by Religion Link, has put together a comprehensive list of current articles on various topics for religion journalists.
The Journal of Muslim Mental Health is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed, open access, academic journal and publishes articles exploring social, cultural, medical, theological, historical, and psychological factors affecting the mental health of Muslims in the United States and globally. They have an article/study on Mental Health Stigma in the Muslim Community.
Although mental health care has improved significantly over the last decades, many people still choose not to seek treatment or quit prematurely. A number of possible factors contribute to these disparities with stigma being perhaps the most significant. Stigma hurts individuals with mental illness and their communities, creating injustices and sometimes devastating consequences. In this paper, we discuss mental illness stigma and its related constructs, describe the current state of understanding mental illness stigma in Islam, and summarize critical considerations to address stigma in this community.
Crossroads offers a monthly Newsletter of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health through The Duke University. A recent issue included an article, Religious Attendance and Depressive Symptoms. Investigators in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of South Florida analyzed data from a 20-year longitudinal community-based study of 754 participants (50% male) who were 9 to 19 years old in 1983 when the first wave of interviews was conducted. Follow-up assessments were then conducted in 1986, 1992, and 2003. Results: Those never attending religious services increased progressively with each interview wave, from 14.3% in 1983 to 31.7% in 2003. At every assessment those not attending religious services had significantly higher depressive symptoms. This is another study, this time in teenagers and young adults, showing a step-wise decrease in depressive symptoms with increasing religious attendance across a 20-year time span.
When Mental Health Ministries started in 2001, there was not much attention given to addressing the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities. Since then there is increasing awareness of the important role of faith and spirituality in the treatment and recovery process. There is the recognition that faith communities are in a unique position to be caring congregations for persons living with a mental illness and those who care for them. When faith leaders and faith communities are educated about mental illness, they can be an important part of a support community by forming collaborative relationships with local mental health providers, advocacy groups and other community partners.
We can learn from each other. The It Worked For Us section of our website has two parts…What We Are Doing and Your Ideas. The What we Are Doing section 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 in sharing your experiences, we might offer ideas and encouragement to others to help them begin or expand a mental health ministry.
The Your Ideas section includes ideas submitted by individuals. A recent addition to this section is a description of Twelve Principles of Support for Mental Illness based on the NAMI Group Skill Workbook with notes on faith applications from a Christian perspective written by Judy Beckman.
If you have ideas to contribute, you can contact Mental Health Ministries through the website or by e-mailing Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2015 NAMI National Convention will be held July 6-9 at the Hilton San Francisco, Union Square. NAMI FaithNet will be offering a workshop, Bridging the Gap: Mental Illness, Faith & Recovery. Held on Wednesday, July 8, this worship will offer first steps to equipping and motivating NAMI families and those living with mental illness to bridge the gap as liaisons between clergy persons and mental health care providers. Our goal is to motivate and equip grassroots leaders and the broader community with practical approaches which encourage collaboration between mental health professionals, faith leaders and families and individuals impacted by mental illness. An interfaith prayer and share service will follow the workshop. A Networking session is scheduled for Thursday, July 9. For registration information visit http://www.nami.org/convention/
As we learn more and more about the connections between the mind and body, it becomes clearer that spirituality, religion and faith can help some individuals live well with mental illness. The more we understand about the benefits spirituality provides to many who are affected by mental health conditions, the more we also discover practices and ideas that can even help people who don't adhere to a specific faith. This includes families and individuals who, as for many experiencing other health conditions or in times of crisis, turn to their faith as a key component in the journey of their experienced. This article is available on the new NAMI website.
Dr. Nancy Kehoe, author of Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness, hosts a series of videos on YouTube called Conversations on Religion and Mental Health. Wrestling with Our Inner Angels is Nancy Kehoe’s compelling, intimate, and moving story of how she brought her background as a psychologist and a nun in the Religious of the Sacred Heart to bear in the groups she formed to explore the role of faith and spirituality in their treatment – and in their lives. Through fascinating stories of her own spiritual journey, she gives readers of all backgrounds and interests new insights into the inner lives of the mentally ill and new ways of thinking about the role of spirituality and faith in all our lives. Dr. Kehoe’s book is available on Amazon.
The following videos hosted by Dr. Nancy Kehoe are available on YouTube.
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.
The Resilient Torrey Pine Tree
The Torrey pine tree is the rarest pine in the United States and one of the rarest pines in the world. It is restricted to just two regions in the United States: an island off the California coast and parts of coastal San Diego County. My husband and I learned more about these rare trees on a recent visit to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The Torrey pine has found ways to adapt to its environment and to survive despite many adverse conditions. We all know that California is one of the states struggling with a severe drought. The very long needles of the Torrey pine have grooves that allow the tree to channel dew and fog droplets to the ground and the waiting roots. The Torrey pine typically will grow in a contorted manner because of its constant exposure to the winds and salt spray that come off the ocean. Many of these trees grow from rocky cliffs and outcroppings. The tree has the ability to put down a long taproot and elaborate system of roots to access moisture.
This amazing tree has also adapted to fire. Fire kills the trees but the germination of seeds is much greater after a fire. Torrey pine cones take three years to mature and the cones can remain on the tree for five years or so. The seeds are gradually released out of the cone over a period of several years. Seeds can remain viable for at least ten years but they must be dispersed by birds or other animals.
Many of us have had to find ways to adapt to the challenges of life. We may have been labeled with a variety of “diagnoses.” But you cannot put a label on the human spirit. Personally I know that I need to continue to have my medication monitored, maintain a good support system and practice good self-care as well as preventative care at those times when I feel most vulnerable. Like the Torrey pine, I’ve learned coping skills and have developed inner resources. I relate to the words of Louisa May Alcott who wrote, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” May we all find the strength and the faith to meet the challenges and adversities of life even as we celebrate the sacred ordinary of daily living.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119