In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI's (National Alliance on Mental Illness) efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness. This year MIAW takes place October 2-8.
This year, the theme revolves around building a movement through the new StigmaFree initiative. Being Stigma Free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues - See more on the NAMI website.
MIAW is an opportunity to do something to raise awareness about mental illness in your faith community or to partner with community groups in your area for an event.
This e-Spotlight includes information and resources to help you make the most of this educational opportunity to erase the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities.
Resources on the Mental Health Ministries Home page include:
The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, October 4. Mental illness networks and faith leaders are urged to work together so that they recognize and prepare for this day in a way that works best for each faith community. The prayers and actions of both faith communities and secular organizations are needed to restore mental wellness in America. By seeking God’s guidance we can recommit ourselves to replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and love in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.
You can download a resource with Liturgies to use for the National Day of Prayer on the Home page of the Mental Health Ministries website. This resource is available in English and Spanish. Many faith communities have sponsored an interfaith candle lighting service using a liturgy written by Carole J. Wills that is included in this resource. Other resources are available on the NAMI FaithNet website.
Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) is comprised of awareness events that include an optional screening component. National Depression Screening Day began as an effort to reach individuals across the nation with important mental health education and connect them with support services. Screening for Mental Health (SMH) pioneered National Depression Screening Day as the first, voluntary, mental health screening initiative in 1990.
Screenings are held both online and in-person and thousands of people participate each year. This is an opportunity to refer members of your congregation to screening sites in your area. You can take a self-screening test on the NDSD website.
All too often the term "mental illness" evokes inaccurate, stigmatizing stereotypes. Studies estimate that one-half of people with treatable mental illness do not seek help because of the stigma. Mental health professionals discuss stigma, its effects and moving beyond stigma to hope. The complete show is available on the DVD set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith. A short clip from the longer show is available on the Mental Health Ministries YouTube channel. The entire show can be viewed here.
Veterans Day is Wednesday, November 11. Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service.
Besides acknowledging and showing appreciation for the contributions of our veterans, we also need to be proactive in insuring that our veterans receive the support and care they have earned as they make the transition to civilian life. Sadly many veterans continue to be affected by the trauma they experienced known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our faith communities can help by providing education about PTSD and suicide prevention as well as finding ways to provide support to service members and their families.
Mental Health Ministries has produced an interfaith Veterans Day resource that can be used as a bulletin insert or flyer. Some suggestions of how faith communities can support veterans and their families include:
Too often men and women remain silent about their emotional struggles. Only about half of those experiencing mental health problems seek treatment. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t just limited to those service members in combat roles. Non-combatant jobs in the military, like doctors, nurses, chaplains and other support personnel can also be exposed to traumatic events that put them at risk for developing PTSD.
Toni Lopez is featured in our video, PTSD: Healing and Hope. Toni served for 25 years in the Navy as a physician’s assistant, including treating both military and civilian casualties at combat field hospitals in Iraq.
While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a reality for many of our returning service members, things are changing. The military is encouraging people to take their symptoms seriously and to seek help. When treated early, the disabling aspects of PTSD can be treated and need not lead to lifelong problems.
No two veterans have the same war experience, nor, upon returning from war do they face exactly the same reintegration challenges. Likewise, veterans heal and recover in their own ways and along their own timelines. Working together, compassionate, knowledgeable, and skilled caregivers, friends, and professionals can give veterans life-saving and life-giving care and support. Several chapters of the book are dedicated to helping faith communities minister effectively to returning soldiers by outlining the basic principles for outreach, providing guidelines for creating a welcoming and safe environment, and sharing ideas for activating the healing rituals of the church year. Available on Amazon.
Spirituality and religion are important to health and mental health and should be included in ‐ not excluded from ‐ healthcare services that strive to be holistic and culturally competent. The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health has heard for many years from the people we serve that spirituality and religion are valuable resources in finding hope, achieving wellness and living in recovery. Religion and spirituality are important components of multicultural competence. They are also central to how many people view illness experiences, and how they achieve wellness and recovery. This brochure, produced by the LA County Department of Mental Health, presents a distinction between spirituality and religion. It is available for download under Brochures on the Mental Health Ministries website.
Countless Christians -- including scores of saints -- have suffered profound, pervasive sorrow that modern psychiatrists call "depression." Then, as now, great faith and even fervent spiritual practices have generally failed to ease this wearying desolation of soul. Catholic psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty reviews the effective ways that have recently been devised to deal with this grave and sometimes deadly affliction -- ways that are not only consistent with the teachings of the Church, but even rooted in many of those teachings. Available on Amazon.
Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care's history in the country alongside his and every family's private struggles. Available on Amazon.
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Presence is what we are all starving for. Real presence! We are too busy to be present, too blind to see the nourishment and salvation in the crumbs of life, the experience of each moment. Yet the secret of life is this: There are no leftovers! There is nothing – no thing, no person, no experience, no thought, no joy or pain – that cannot be harvested and used for nourishment on our journey to God.- Macrina Wiederkehr
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119