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.
The May Mental Health section on the Mental Health Ministries website 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 condition but also family members, the needs of the entire family are addressed. We have included a PDF file of “Specific Actions” in the 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.
The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network has resources to help you plan a Mental Health Sunday. They have a collection of worship resources in the Resource Guide for Mental Health Sunday. Worship resources include sermon ideas as well as complete sermons, a litany, unison prayers and more. They also have Congregational Toolkits for teaching your congregation about mental illnesses.
Mental Illness Awareness Month in May and Mental Illness Awareness Week (first week in October) are appropriate times to plan a Mental Health Sunday. But congregations are encouraged to focus a Sunday to provide education and support for members around mental health challenges any time that fits their schedule. Resources are available on their website.
Pathways to Promise offers a downloadable resource, Mental Health Ministry: Children and Family Notebook. This notebook is designed to help individuals and congregations develop spiritual care with children and families facing mental health issues. Families are encouraged to adapt these resources to their particular congregation and local community. The notebook contains sample resources and information about a wide range of groups and organizations active in the area of children’s mental health. It is available on the Pathways to Promise website and on the Mental Health Ministries website under Resource Guides.
The article, "You Are Not Alone," is written by a Lutheran pastor who advocates for those who live with mental illness. The Rev. Jeff Pflug encourages you to do one thing: Look for that member in your parish who may be off in the shadows. "You Are Not Alone" was first published in the November 2013 Lutheran Witness and is now available as a PDF resource on our Synod's website.
Simple and easy to read, this book is intended for everyone, Christian and non-Christian, those who are religious or spiritual or neither. It explores how God feels about us. Are we his beloved, as some claim? Or is this just fantasy and wishful thinking. The author, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, is a psychiatrist and medical researcher. He examines the evidence for God's love from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu perspectives based largely on the sacred scriptures from these traditions. Not a theologian, the author draws from his 30 years in clinical practice, his research, and his personal life in taking a practical approach to the subject. Those of any age with an open mind will find this book enlightening, if not inspiring. It is available on Amazon.
Resources collected by Religion Link, has put together a comprehensive list of current articles on various topics for religion journalists.
There are many excellent resources included on the website. One excerpt says, “In fall 2014, two studies emerged that showed while many people struggling with mental illness will approach clergy before consulting a doctor or other health care professional, clergy are woefully underprepared to deal with them.” A Baylor University study shows theological schools do very little to prepare clergy for dealing with the mentally ill, and a LifeWay Research study shows more than 20 percent of pastors say they feel “reluctant” to aid the mentally ill due to time pressures. “Many people in congregations continue to suffer under well-meaning pastors who primarily tell them to pray harder or confess sin in relation to mental health problems,” the Baylor study states.
For individuals at risk of suicide, behavioral health and primary care settings provide unique opportunities to connect with the health care system and access effective treatment. Almost half (45%) of individuals who die by suicide have visited a primary care provider in the month prior to their death, and 20% have had contact with mental health services.
Suicide Safe, SAMHSA's new suicide prevention app for mobile devices (available for Android and Apple devices) and optimized for tablets, helps providers integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice and address suicide risk among their patients. Suicide Safe is a free app based on SAMHSA's Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) card.
It is a privilege to serve on the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership Steering Committee and to see articles and studies being published to help foster the dialogue and encourage collaborations between APA psychiatrists and leaders of our religious and spiritual communities. Drs. James Griffith, Neely Myers and Michael Compton recently published an article in Community Mental Health Journal titled “How Can Community Religious Groups Aid Recovery for Individuals and Psychotic Illnesses?”
Because it is difficult to access online, we have included an article abstract: Ministries of churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues are a potential resource for individuals with chronic psychoses. Church attendance is highest in states with the least mental health funding, suggesting a role for community religious groups to aid over-extended mental health systems. The American Psychiatric Association has initiated new efforts to foster partnerships between psychiatrists and religious groups. Such partnerships should be informed by research evidence: (1) religious coping can have both beneficial and adverse effects upon psychosis illness severity; (2) psychosocial programs for persons with psychotic disorders should target specific psychobiological vulnerabilities, in addition to providing compassionate emotional support; (3) family psychoeducation is a well validated model for reducing schizophrenia illness severity that could inform how religious groups provide activities, social gatherings, and social networks for persons with psychotic disorders. Positive impacts from such collaborations may be greatest in low- and middle-income countries where mental health services are largely absent.
As we learn more and more about the connections between the mind and body, it becomes clear that spirituality, religion and faith can help some individuals live well with mental health conditions. Some individuals and families turn to faith in times of crisis to help in their recovery while others find that spiritual practices help them continue to manage their mental health. Research has shown that for some, religion and individual spirituality can directly improve our physical and mental health. Some of these practices include:
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. New resources and outreach programs continue to be developed. 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. The Your Ideas section includes ideas submitted by individuals. 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 2016 NAMI National Convention, July 6–9 in Denver, will gather nearly 2,000 mental health activists and advocates from across the United States and other countries. The convention educates, encourages and empowers a diverse community that is passionate about building better lives for people affected by mental illness. This year’s theme is “Act. Advocate. Achieve.” For more information and registration visit the convention website.
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.
I went through a rough time this last fall after titrating off my medications under the supervision of my doctor. I had been in recovery for so many years that we both thought it was worth the try. After several triggers, I found myself back in the shadows of depression. Even though I educate about mental health issues, I personally found it very difficult to reach out for help and support.
While we have come a long way, I experienced again how the stigma and shame associated with mental health challenges are still very real. When we see someone struggling, we may need to take the first step in reaching out in a non-judgmental way. This is one reason why it is important to educate our faith communities that mental illness is a no-fault illness and that hope and recovery are possible. Medications are certainly necessary. But it is relationships and love that heal the soul. Thankfully, I am again doing very well and I am grateful for the support and care that I received.
Spirit God, you know our needs
Even before we can form them
into words of prayers.
You are patient with us.
You are protective of us
You are present with us
until such time that we are able
to ask for what we need.
Thank you, Spirit God,
for your healing taking place within
before we are even aware
of how broken we have become.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119