We look forward to summer. With no major religious holidays, the summer is often a time when the activities…and the meetings… in our congregations slow down. The pace is slower. With many children out of school, families plan vacations.
As we take time to re-create during the summer months, it is a time to reassess our priorities and hopefully find ways to reduce the stress in our lives. We know how important self-care is for physical, mental and spiritual health. Yet many of us neglect our own care. This is especially true for those persons responsible for caring for others.
This Spotlight lifts up ideas and resources to help us care for ourselves so that we might be there for others. It also lifts up some resources for families.
Clergy burnout is a major issue. The numbers of clergy experiencing burnout and depression has increased for a number of reasons. Most faith communities face financial stresses. Staff reductions have forced many faith leaders to take on more duties. Many clergy feel pressured to raise money and run capital campaigns which leaves less time for performing their pastoral responsibilities. Seminary graduates are leaving school with more personal debt than previous generations.
With more duties, many clergy report being overwhelmed with more work and responsibilities. The workload and lack of support can lead to feelings of isolation, burnout and depression. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, clergy often self-medicate instead of reaching out for help when feeling anxious, over-whelmed or stressed out.
"Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could." (New York Times, August 1, 2010)
These are some of the startling statistics regarding clergy burnout.
Mental Health Ministries has a new brochure that highlights these issues regarding clergy burnout. It offers some ideas on what clergy can do and how congregations can be supportive of their faith leaders. It is available on the Mental Health Ministries website as a brochure under Resources.
Instead, it manifests in severe panic attacks that lead to fearful avoidance of certain places or situations. These fears can be as crippling as any serious physical illness. Help and hope are available. You can view a video on anxiety produced by Mental Health Ministries on YouTube.
It is not just the clergy member who struggles with burnout issues. His or her family are also at risk. Rev. Frank Schaefer, founder and developer of www.DesperatePreacher.com, has a helpful article, Self-Care Tips for the Clergy Family.
When a friend or family member develops a mental health condition, it's important to know that you're not alone. Many Americans have experienced caring for a person with mental illness. One in 17 Americans lives with a serious mental health condition. Mental health professionals have effective treatments for most of these conditions, yet in any given year, 60% of people with a mental illness don't get mental health care. As a result, family members and caregivers often play a large role in helping and supporting them.
This section from the NAMI website offers information on:
When we lose a beloved superstar like Robin Williams to an apparent suicide and learn he had been battling severe depression before his death, it's natural to think about our own loved ones. We might look around at our adult family members and friends who are suffering and try to get them the help they need, but what we might not see is children and adolescents can get depressed and anxious, too. A CNN video and article, When Mental Illness Affects Your Family, includes:
To view the article and video go to "When mental illness affects your family"
Another video on families dealing with a loved one struggling with a mental illness featured Scott Pelly on a 60 Minutes segment, The Stigma of Raising a Mentally Ill Child. It can be viewed at "The Stigma of Raising a Mentally Ill Child"
The Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership is collaboration between psychiatrists and clergy aimed at fostering a dialogue between two fields, reducing stigma, and accounting for medical and spiritual dimensions as people seek care. The partnership provides an opportunity for psychiatrists and the mental health community to learn from spiritual leaders, to whom people often turn in times of mental distress. At the same time it provides an opportunity to improve understanding of the best science and evidence based treatment for psychiatric illnesses among faith leaders and those in the faith community.
I was privileged to be part of the more than 40 prominent, diverse faith, psychiatric and other mental health leaders gathered on July 11, 2014 to inaugurate the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership. The American Psychiatric Association has put together a website with helpful resources and links as well as a new resource guide, Mental Health: A Guide for Faith Leaders with a companion Quick Reference on Mental Health for Faith Leaders. These resources can be downloaded from the APA website at www.psychiatry.org/faith.
Christa Andrade with the Mental Health Association of Southern Pennsylvania has put together a document, Developing Welcoming Faith Communities: Inspiring Examples of Faith-Based Initiatives. This document provides an overview of what is available to faith-based communities, religious congregations and mental health organizations to connect people with mental health conditions and their families to congregational life.
The Creating Caring Congregation five step model of education, commitment, welcome, support and advocacy is included in this resource along with examples of what faith communities are doing. The concluding section states, Faith communities have always played a significant role in American life: They offer opportunities not only to express one’s spirituality but also to experience the benefits of fellowship. The examples above provide some guidance to others who want to help ensure that individuals with mental health conditions have the same opportunities for faith and fellowship as anyone else.
A PDF file of this document is available in the Resource Guides section on the Mental Health Ministries website.
Bev Roozeboom has written a book, Unlocking the Treasure: A Bible Study for Moms Entrusted with Special-Needs Children. It is written from a Christian perspective to help mothers who have a child who struggles with physical, emotional, mental, or behavioral difficulties. Mothers of children with special needs often feel alone, wondering if anyone understands their heart. "Unlocking the Treasure" includes real-life stories from several mothers who are also on this journey called "special needs.”
1 in 5 teens lives with a mental health condition, yet less than half get help. More than 4,000 teens are lost to suicide every year. Mental health remains a topic that few discuss. NAMI is inviting faith communities to join in the efforts to change that reality by ending the silence and engaging teens in community conversations. NAMI created Say it Out Loud to make it easy to hold community conversations with teens. The Say it Out Loud downloadable toolkit has everything needed to start a conversation, including a Facilitator's Guide, 5-minute film, a series of fact sheets and additional information to guide the group facilitator. Community conversations promise to end the stigma that serves as a barrier to teens seeking help when needed. To learn more about this project and how to download the Say it Out Loud toolkit, visit www.nami.org/sayitoutloud
An introductory video is available at https://vimeo.com/121071189
The Resource Manual, Welcomed and Valued: Building Faith Communities of Support and Hope with People with Mental Illness and Their Families, features 90+ pages of information, perspectives and tools to assist in the ministry with people with mental illness.
We encourage groups to contribute ideas on resources and programs to the It Worked For Us section on our website. A new addition to this section is a program to reach out to African American faith communities. Healthy Communities, Inc. (HCI); is a faith-based nonprofit organization located in Oakland, California with a mission to promote culturally responsive, strength-based and coordinated services that empower African American adult consumers to recover from serious mental health and substance abuse issues. In October 2012, HCI was awarded a grant from the Alameda County Behavioral Health Services Agency to conduct a project to decrease stigma and discrimination towards African American mental health consumers. HCI adapted the five step Creating Caring Congregations model from the resource/study guide, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond, written by Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder. A PDF file describing this program is available on our website.
Faith and community leaders can play a significant role in helping to educate individuals and families about mental health. This fact sheet can help communities and congregations raise awareness about mental health issues and emphasize the importance of people to seek help when needed. This fact sheet can be used as a bulletin insert or announcement to faith communities about the importance of mental health issues in our communities. This interview is available as a podcast.
Faith and community leaders can play a significant role in helping to educate individuals and families about mental health. This fact sheet can help communities and congregations raise awareness about mental health issues and emphasize the importance of people to seek help when needed. This fact sheet can be used as a bulletin insert or announcement to faith communities about the importance of mental health issues in our communities. This resource can be ordered for free and downloaded from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.A PDF file is available on the Mental Health Ministries website in the Handouts/Flyers section.
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My husband discovered a good stress reduction plan last year…he retired. It worked so well, that I “officially” entered retired status as a United Methodist minister at my Annual Conference in June. I will continue my work with Mental Health Ministries, but I am also in a process of discernment on where I can best use my time and what feeds my soul.
Spending time working in my garden and is one of the things that feeds my soul and reduces my stress. I find it meditative and restorative to get my hands in the dirt and experience the bounty of fresh vegetables and flowers. Studies show that spending time in nature reduces stress and improves a person’s overall well-being. Even nurturing small indoor plants or an herb garden can be renewing and restorative.
I pray that we can all find ways to step back this summer and find ways to be open to the sacred ordinary of daily living.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119