Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Spring 2018

The trees in our yard have the beginnings of new growth as we move into the season of spring.  Bulbs are beginning to push through the dirt with the promise of flowers.  I love to work in my garden.  But it does take time to nurture new growth.  I fertilize the various plants and trees because I have faith in the promise of the renewal and hope that Spring offers.  

Flower Pots by Jennifer Smith GreeneIn the same way, I have faith in the promise of hope and new life for persons who find themselves in personal darkness because they are dealing with a mental illness.  I pray that these persons will reach out for help.  Just as I must care for the plants in my garden, there are times in our lives that we need the nurture, care and support of others.

I have a wonderful web person, Jennifer Smith Greene, whose artwork expresses the new life of spring.  Not only is she gifted in the technical needs of Mental Health Ministries, she is also a graphic designer and illustrator.  I especially appreciate her watercolor paintings as I am a beginner and have taken some watercolor classes.  Jenny gave me permission to include one of her paintings that reflects our theme of nurturing new growth.  You can visit her website at

May: Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month.  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.

Mental Health Ministries Resources: Mental Health Month

The May is Mental Health Month on the Mental Health Ministries website offers several downloadable resources created for Mental Health Month including a downloadable bulletin inserts/flyer, May is Mental Health Month.  Other resources include:

  • National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week is the National Federation of Families yearly event, geared toward raising awareness to the issues and causes integral to the children's mental health field in each community across the country.   It is through our combined efforts that growth, re­newal and the promotion of positive mental health will impact the well-being of our children.  We offer two bulletin inserts or flyers, Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents and Children’s Mental Health Week.

While May is designated as Mental Health Month, educating about mental health issues is important any time of the year.

Mental Health Sunday

UCC Mental Health NetworkMental 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. 

The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network ( has excellent 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.  Resources for a Mental Health Sunday are available on the UCC Mental Health Network website.

Each Mind Matters: California's Mental Health Movement

Each Mind Matters is California’s Mental Health Movement. The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) is an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. Prevention and early intervention initiatives implemented by CalMHSA include Stigma and Discrimination Reduction, Suicide Prevention and Student Mental Health, all of which are funded through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).

Spiritual and faith-based leaders are essential community partners in their efforts to reduce stigma, promote mental health and wellness, and prevent suicide. People may turn to faith leaders first when facing mental health challenges and crises.  Each Mind Matters offers some Action Steps and Suggestions to help faith communities overcome the stigma of mental illness.

The Each Mind Matters Resource Center’s showcases links to personal stories.  One of the stories is a taping of Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder sharing her story from 15 years ago when she was still serving as a pastor.  Susan's story can be viewed here.  Other stories and resources are available at the Each Mind Matters collection on Faith-based Communities on the Each Mind Matters website.

Each Mind Matters – Action Steps and Suggestions

Each Mind Matters Resource CenterMeet with local faith leaders and share resources to brainstorm how you might work together. Be sure to reach out to the smaller and lesser known denominations and persuasions.

Invite faith representatives to serve on local mental health and suicide prevention coalitions. Include lay leaders, hospital chaplains, law enforcement chaplains and members of interfaith councils.

Consider the benefits and drawbacks of holding meetings and trainings in church or temple spaces. Some people may feel more comfortable attending, while others may feel excluded. Rotate meeting in a secular space, such as at a public library.

Partner with faith organizations to hold or sponsor alternative holiday events that are alcohol-free and welcoming to all people.

CRAWL Model – A Church-Initiated Mental Health Strategy

Saddleback has created a Church-Initiated Mental Health Strategy that can be built over time, adapted, and implemented into all areas of ministries in any church. Start small and gradually expand. It is helpful to look at building a mental health ministry through the stages of crawl, walk, and run.  Crawl steps do not require money, training, resources or paid staff.  They are beginning steps for easing into creating a mental health ministry.  All faith communities can implement crawl steps.

Website – Resources for Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention

Resources for Suicide PreventionThe Mental Health Taskforce of the Christian Reformed Church in America has put together a reference guide with links to information on suicide and suicide prevention.  One section from the Mental Health Commission of Canada gives suggestions on the language we use regarding suicide.  Pastoral sensitivity extends to using careful and thoughtful language when we talk about suicide. Some words and phrases can bring additional pain and further stigmatize people in tragic circumstances. This increases the shame, secrecy, and isolation people experience, and makes it even more difficult for people affected by suicide to reach out for help.  Compassionate language includes…

  • Death by suicide or died by suicide are preferred phrases that can offer comfort and provide support for healing.
  • Committed suicide and completed suicide imply a negative judgment or a criminal offence, while successful suicide implies accomplishment.
  • Suicide survivor can refer to those who have experienced their own suicidality or those who are bereaved by suicide.
  • Some survivors prefer the terms suicide attempt survivorsurvivor of suicide loss or survivor bereaved by suicide

Resources for Churches on Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention

Article – Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors

Mental Illness TOne in four Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many look to their church for spiritual guidance in times of distress. But they’re unlikely to find much help on Sunday mornings.  Most Protestant senior pastors (66 percent) seldom speak to their congregation about mental illness.  That includes almost half (49 percent) who rarely (39 percent) or never (10 percent), speak about mental illness. About 1 in 6 pastors (16 percent) speak about mental illness once a year. And about quarter of pastors (22 percent) are reluctant to help those who suffer from acute mental illness because it takes too much time.

Those are among the findings of a recent study of faith and mental illness by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, co-sponsored by Focus on the Family, was designed to help churches better assist those affected by mental illness.

Sermon – A Sermon of Truth About Depression

A Sermon of Truth about DepressionA Sermon of Truth About Depression by Kathy Hurt starts off, "As a church pastor, I prepare sermons every week that will (hopefully) help people live well and love fully. I have found that including stories from my own life experiences seems to resonate most with my listeners. They tell me that when I talk about myself, they feel as though “you were talking about me.” I always enjoy hearing such feedback—except when it is spoken in a low voice, almost a whisper, and comes with a knowing look or an especially strong hug."

Article – Preaching + Mental Illness

Preaching + Mental IllnessMany clergy do not know where to begin when addressing mental illness.  Using the pulpit to educate congregations is a powerful way to share that mental illness is not a moral or spiritual failure.  It is a treatable illness that impacts our lives, our families and our communities.  Our faith communities can offer a container of acceptance and comfort to assure persons that they are held by a loving God even in the midst of personal despair.  Preaching + Mental Illness is an article by Sarah Griffith Lund, a UCC pastor, that offers scriptures to use as entry points for preaching about mental illness. 

Article/Handout – Why Clergy and Spiritual Leaders May be Reluctant to Address Mental Health Issues

As an ordained minister and a person who lives with a mental illness, I am often asked why it is so difficult for many spiritual leaders to talk openly about mental illness.  I wrote this article/handout that includes some of my ideas on this topic.  It is available in the Articles section of our website and can be downloaded like all resources on the Mental Health Ministries website. (PDF, English)

Books by Dr. Harold Koenig for Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Catholic Christianity on Beliefs, Research and Applications

Dr. Harold Koenig is a physician researcher who has spent over 30 years investigating the relationship between religion and health, and directs Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.  He has authored books for mental health professionals, clergy, researchers, and laypersons interested in the relationship between religious involvement and mental health in different faith traditions.  Each book includes a brief history and concise description of beliefs, practices, and values are followed by a review of research and then by recommendations for practice based on research, clinical experience, and common sense. 

Koenig Books

(Protestant Mental Health: Available on Amazon)
(Jewish Mental Health: Available on Amazon)
(Hindu Mental Health: Available on Amazon)
(Islam Mental Health: Available on Amazon)
(Catholic Mental Health: Available on Amazon)

Book – Blossoming Hope: The Black Woman's Guide to Mental Health and Wellness

Blossoming Hope BookBlossoming Hope: The Black Christian Woman's Guide to Mental Health and Wellness by D. Tonya Armstrong, a licensed psychologist, minister, and seminary administrator.

By taking seriously the cultural and spiritual identities of Black Christian women, Dr. Armstrong addresses the unique challenges of Black women and provides practical resources that promote wholeness. Using the transformative tools of psychoeducation, vignettes of Black Christian women living with mental illness, inspirational music, spoken word exercises, and a wealth of spiritual, mental health, and wellness resources, Dr. Armstrong guides us toward optimal functioning in mind, spirit, body, and soul. In short, Blossoming Hope equips you for full blossoming, firmly planted in the God of our hope.

Book – Broken Brain, Fortified Faith

Broken Brain, Fortified FaithBroken Brain, Fortified Faith is the story of one family's journey through schizophrenia, navigating the uncharted waters of mental illness to find help for their daughter, Amber, and support for their family. This memoir is an honest look at the stress, anger, education, and finally, hope experienced through the eyes of a mother. Along the way, she questions her trust in God as their family encounters setbacks, inadequate treatments, and additional family health crises, but with the help of trusted family, friends, education, and support groups, author Virginia Pillars learns to rely on her faith as she faces the challenges that often accompany mental illness.

Article – 19 Inspiriational Quotes to Help Cope with Bipolar Disorder

19 Inspirational Quotes to Help Cope with Bipolar DisorderA blog, “19 Inspirational Quotes to Help Cope With Bipolar Disorder,” from bp magazine offers quotes to help us pause and reflect on our lives, stir our souls and hopefully give us something new we can use for tomorrow.

Article – Christian Faith Communities Are Often on the Front Lines of Mental Health Care

Faith Communities on Front Line of Mental Health CareThis article from Vox shares how churches (faith communities) have a huge responsibility to people living with mental health issues. Are they living up to it?  According to 2014 research by evangelical polling organization Lifeway, only 27 percent of churches have established plans to help families affected by mental illness. Nearly two-thirds of religiously observant Protestant Christians with depression reported wanting their churches to speak openly about mental illness, but 66 percent of pastors said they spoke to their church on the topic once a year or less. Clergy are “on the front lines” of mental illness response because of the importance of faith communities in religious people’s lives — whether or not they were equipped to do so. For this reason it is all the more vital that faith communities respond effectively to parishioners dealing with mental illness, getting them the help they need. 

Resources – Congregational Resource Guide (CRG)

You can stay informed about mental health resources on the Congregational Resource Guide (CRG). The CRG features web resources, organizations, books, articles and more to help your congregation increase knowledge about mental health and how to support those with mental illnesses and their families.  There are descriptions of a resources and organizations addressing faith/spirituality and mental illness.

"Like" Mental Health Ministries on Facebook

FacebookWe encourage you to “Like” us on our Facebook pageto get timely updates on resources, articles, and ideas of what other people are doing. We also encourage your comments, contributions and notifications about programs or events.

Snippets from Susan

A Prayer to Live With Grace
~Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro

May we discover through pain and torment,
the strength to live with grace and humor.
May we discover through doubt and anguish,
the strength to live with dignity and holiness.
May we discover through suffering and fear,
The strength to move toward healing.
May it come to pass that we be restored to health and to vigor.
May life grant us wellness of body, spirit, and mind.
And if this cannot be so, may we find in this transformation and passage
Moments of meaning, opportunities for love
and the deep and gracious calm that comes
when we allow ourselves to move on.



Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119