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. Mental Health Ministries also posts timely resources on our Facebook page.
We always welcome your contribution of resources and programs addressing faith and spirituality that would be of interest to our national (and international) readers.
The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a new resource, Promoting Emotional Health and Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for Senior Centers. It offers strategies senior centers can use to integrate suicide prevention into activities that support the well-being of older adults. It also describes activities that increase protective factors and explains how to recognize the warning signs of suicide. Available at no cost on the SAMHSA website.
“10 Things Faith Community Leaders Can Do to Make the World a Better Place for People with Mental Illnesses” is a one-page summary published by the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness. It is available on the Mental Health Ministries website under Articles and on the INMI Google Docs page.
Millions of people struggle with mental illness. Depression and bipolar disorders are particularly prevalent, affecting many people over the course of their lifetimes. Yet effective treatments for these illnesses lag behind treatments for other major illnesses, like heart disease and even cancer. The stigma attached to mental illness is also very problematic, because it keeps those who suffer from seeking medical help, talking to friends and family, and getting support from others with the same conditions.
MoodNetwork, a patient-powered online research network for people with depression and bipolar disorder, is working to erase the stigma of mental illness and to find better, more effective treatments. A key goal of MoodNetwork is to educate people about these conditions and create a community of understanding, learning, and caring. Through online forums, blogs, and surveys, participants can share their experiences, and help others–including doctors and researchers–learn what it's like to live with these conditions, which treatments and therapies work and which don't, and how being open about mental illness is the first step in reducing its stigma.
“As part of this effort, MoodNetwork is committed to exploring and sharing how alternative and under-utilized approaches can help people who live with mental illness, in particular faith-based practices like meditation, prayer, and spirituality. We need to hear from people with mood disorders who have found help and solace through faith and spirituality, so that they, in turn, can help others. We also want to reach out to the larger faith communities so that we can work together to help those with mental health conditions feel better and less stigmatized in their families, communities and places of employment.”
For more information go to www.moodnetwork.org
The Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership is a 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 convening organizations are APA, the APA Foundation and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
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.
Some resources available include, Mental Health: A Guide for Faith Leaders, a guide provides information to help faith leaders work with members of their congregations and their families who are facing mental health challenges. There is also a Quick Resource Guide that is a companion resource. Resources available at the APA.
Power Walking, A Journey to Wholeness is a collection of poetry and prose that uses walking as a metaphor for healing and recovery. The author, Maxine Bigby Cunningham is the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Empowered Walking Enterprise, LLC, which offers solutions for mental and emotional wellness. Interweaving poetry, prose, artistic designs and scriptures, the author offers four steps to optimal wellness: Getting on your feet, Taking baby steps, Staying on your feet, and Walking differently. Cunningham shares her story of “recovery” from a chronic mental illness. This journey illustrates and embraces the connections of the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical for optimal wellbeing, for wholeness. Each chapter begins with a whispered prayer and concludes with a shout of praise. Walking is revealed as both a daily experience and a lifetime journey. Available on Amazon.
This is a small, easy to read handbook showing why we need mental health reform that is holistic. Our mental health system needs a collaboration of mental, physical and spiritual resources to ensure all get equal and just care. The author, Ms. Stephanie Grey, is a public health nurse and director of Be Healthy Ministries, Inc. She promotes health education which aims to prevent diseases, and also provides health advocacy and research. She believes a holistic approach is what is needed to address the many public health and safety challenges we face in this 21st century. Available on CreateSpace.
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.
Faith communities are increasingly interested in meeting people’s mental health needs through support groups both for persons living with a mental illness and those who care for them. The Mental Health Ministries website has a section on resources to help start a support group as well as sample schedules of what has worked for other faith communities.
Starting a Spiritual Support Group for Mental Health and Wellness in Your Faith Community is a booklet that offers helpful tips for starting a spiritual support group. It is based on the experience of the First Congregational Church (UCC) in Boulder, Colorado. This resource is available on the Mental Health Ministries website and on the INMI website.
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. For some ideas on what groups are doing visit the MHM website.
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.
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.
My husband and I visited Hawaii in the fall. You hear and see the word Aloha everywhere. The word “Aloha” has over 100 meanings. But an elder Hawaiian man explained to me that Aloha is really two words. “Alo” means to be face to face, to share and to really BE in someone’s presence. “Ha” means breath. So the main meaning of Aloha is to be close enough to share our breath or life-giving essence with someone.
The New Year is a time of new beginnings and recommitting ourselves to what is really important in our lives. I pray that we can all practice Aloha even with those persons who may make us feel uncomfortable. If each of us was to treat every person with respect and dignity despite our differences, what a difference we could make.
Aloha to the New Year!
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119