Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Fall 2019

Mental Illness Awareness Week – October 6-12

National Day of Prayer – Tuesday, October 8

National Depression Screening Day – October 10

Veterans' Day – November 11


Mental Illness Awareness


Mental Illness Awareness Week – October 6-12

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.
Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is a national observance that was designated by the United States Congress and U.S. President in response to the increasing incidence of mental illness. It takes place during the first week in October. This year National Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is October 6-12, 2019. This week is marked by community education efforts in all 50 states to raise awareness that mental illnesses are treatable medical conditions, and that there is help and hope for children and adults with mental illnesses and their families.

Mental Illness Awareness Week (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.  But helping faith communities become caring congregations is on-going and resources can be used any time of the year.  There is a section on the Mental Health Ministries website with resources under October Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Mental Illness Awareness WeekResources on the Mental Health Ministries Home page include:

Tuesday, October 8 – National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Awareness Recovery and Understanding

PrayerIndividuals who take the initiative within their faith communities “bring hope and help to many people, some who may never have been given permission or words to speak about their struggles.” Some churches choose to have a service on this day with liturgy specifically for this purpose.  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. 
NAMI FaithNet Resources  Find out more.

Article – Don't Worry About Being Perfect

One of the goals of the National Day and National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope and Life is to enable religious groups to be more intentional about how they address mental health concerns.  World religions have become more sympathetic and proactive in addressing suicide. Jew, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus have all established extensive outreach programs to those who suffer from suicidal thoughts.  As part of its outreach, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published a series of articles and videos aimed at suicide prevention and ministering to church members who have lost a loved one.  Melinda Moore, co-chairwoman of the Faith Communities Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and a lead organizer of the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope and Life,spoke at a conference on the role faith communities can play in preventing suicide.  This article offers antidotes, ideas and links for faith communities to participate in the National Weekend of Prayer.

Thursday, October 10 – World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health DayWorld Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

Thursday, October 10 – National Depression Screening Day

National Depression Screening DayNational Depression Screening Day, held annually on the Thursday of the first full week in October, is an education and screening event conducted by hospitals, clinics, colleges, and community groups nationwide.  For more than two decades, Screening for Mental Health has developed programs to educate, raise awareness, and screen individuals for common behavioral and mental health disorders and suicide.

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.  Another website for screening can be found here.

Pathways to Hope Conference

Pathways to Hope ConferencePathways to Hope held their 4th informative and inspirational two-day conference in San Antonio, TX, at the beautiful Tobin Center for Performing Arts, August 23-24, 2019.  There was a wealth of information on various mental health issues offered in the plenary session and in the workshops.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to network and to see how various groups are collaborating in addressing mental health issues.  I had the privilege of speaking at the conference.  I am humbled and honored to have been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Pathways to Promise.  In the photo to the right, (left to right) are Kae Eaton (Executive Director of the Mental Health Chaplaincy), Doug Beach (Conference president, NAMI San Antonio, NAMI FaithNet and Pathways to Promise board), Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder (Mental Health Ministries), Rev. Jermine Alberty (Pathways to Promise Executive Director and Jessica Dexter (Associate Chaplain and Administrative Assistant for Pathways to Promise and Mental Health Chaplaincy).  You can view video of the conference at

Pathways to Promise   Pathways to Hope

Resources for Veterans

Veterans Day is Saturday, 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 because 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.

Videos from Mental Health and Chaplaincy Community Outreach

Mental Health and Chaplaincy’s Faith Community and Clergy Training videos are designed to help faith communities and clergy care for and support Veterans and persons with emotional and mental health struggles.  Discussion questions embedded in the videos encourage conversation within small groups of community members. They are ideal for religious education classes, book clubs, study or prayer groups, community meetings, Veterans’ gatherings, and the like.

For Faith Communities

Faith Communities, Veterans and Mental Health - Video #1 - "Partners In Care" explores caring for Veterans and other persons with emotional and mental health problems.

Faith Communities, Veterans and Mental Health - Video #2 - "Trauma" examines the support faith communities can provide those who have experienced trauma.

Faith Communities, Veterans and Mental Health - Video #3 - "Moral Injury" engages with moral injury, whether it be that of a Veteran or someone else who has gone through a different sort of challenging, life-changing experience.

Faith Communities, Veterans and Mental Health - Video #4 - "Belonging" explores belonging, practices of hospitality, and flourishing amidst suffering as communities of care.

For Clergy

Clergy and Mental Health Care - Video #1 - "Signposts Toward Collaboration" helps clergy explore how they, as leaders of faith communities, can create and sustain a welcoming community for those with mental health problems.

Clergy and Mental Health Care - Video #2 - "Abiding With Those Who Suffer" helps clergy consider how their faith communities minister to the needs of persons with mental health challenges.

By Mental Health and Chaplaincy Community Outreach

Article – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Veterans: Psalms and Prayers

Psalms and prayers are provided as many voices are calling for the church to be a significant partner in the complex readjustment process of returning home for military veterans. View article here.

Bulletin Insert – Veterans Day: A Time to Remember and Support

Veterans Day Bulletin InsertMental 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:

  • Publicly acknowledge members of the congregation who have served or are serving in the military through prayers, listing names in the service bulletin and posting photos of those currently serving. 
  • Send letters, care packages and other tokens of support to persons who are deployed.
  • Support families dealing with the transition of persons leaving for service and returning from service.  Faith communities can reach out through phone calls, providing meals, providing childcare and, most importantly, providing a listening ear.
  • Know the signs of distress and reach out when an individual or family is struggling.  Children are especially sensitive to signs of stress in the home.
  • Provide non-judgmental pastoral care and opportunities for veterans to share their story and talk about how their combat experience has affected their faith.

Veterans Day: A Time to Remember and Support is available to be downloaded in English and in Spanish.

Video – PTSD: Healing and Hope from Mental Health Ministries

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 LopezToni 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.

Book – Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War

Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after WarAlthough veterans make up only 7 percent of the U.S. population, they account for an alarming 20 percent of all suicides. And though treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has undoubtedly alleviated suffering and allowed many service members returning from combat to transition to civilian life, the suicide rate for veterans under thirty has been increasing. Research by Veterans Administration health professionals and veterans’ own experiences now suggest an ancient but unaddressed wound of war may be a factor: moral injury. This deep-seated sense of transgression includes feelings of shame, grief, meaninglessness, and remorse from having violated core moral beliefs.

Soul Repair will help veterans, their families, members of their communities, and clergy understand the impact of war on the consciences of healthy people, support the recovery of moral conscience in society, and restore veterans to civilian life. When a society sends people off to war, it must accept responsibility for returning them home to peace.

Available on Amazon.

Resource – Supporting Returning War Veterans

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) had a PDF resource with ideas and resources to support veterans and their families.

 “The road home from war is longer, steeper and often more challenging than the road to war for most soldiers and their families.  Yellow ribbons are nice, and much appreciated. Love, support and a ‘cup of cold water’, however, is the incarnational gift of Christ, through His Church, to the combat veteran and family.” These words were written by Major John Morris who served as a military chaplain in Iraq and started the program, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.  John believes churches can be a helpful partner in the readjustment process. Here are some ways to support the veterans and their families in your parish:

1. Make your parish “military friendly” by acknowledging, publicly, parishioners who are in the military and how their service is appreciated. Post photos on the bulletin board and organize prayer teams.
 2. Reach out to military families during separations. Pastoral calls and practical help, like changing the oil in the family vehicle or raking leaves, will alleviate stress when a family member is gone. Teachers and youth ministers may make a special effort to reach out to children who feel the trauma of separation from a parent.
 3. Reach out to deployed soldiers. Send the weekly parish bulletin, handwritten notes, and care packages to let them know they are not forgotten.
 4. When a soldier comes home, welcome them. Acknowledging the sacrifice both the vet and their family have made will validate their shared struggle and affirm their service. Separate your feelings about war from your treatment of the vet.
 5. Support beyond the yellow ribbon. Treat the service member and their family as if they have just survived a fire. It will take a long time for the family and soldier to rebuild their lives after the fire of war. With the help of their church, over time, the family can grow into a new normal. Provide meals, offer to babysit, or pay for the couple to attend a marriage retreat.
 6. Be alert for signs of distress. Don’t assume if a soldier and their family attend Sunday Mass regularly that everything is going well with reintegration. Check in with them periodically and watch for signs of depression, hyper vigilance, withdrawal, inability to hold a job, and/or anger. Children may be the first to reflect the stress that is happening at home. Pay attention to what they say and do. Express concern and refer to community resources as needed. 

View the resource here.
Book – When Trauma Wounds: Pathways to Healing and Hope

When Trauma WoundsWhen trauma wounds, victims are thrown into unexpected darkness and experience unfamiliar symptoms. Some trauma survivors draw upon a lifelong faith in God; others find themselves in a wilderness devoid of spiritual grounding. The recovery stories in this book offer diverse pathways to faith and hope.  In When Trauma Wounds, psychologist Karen A. McClintock combines psychological approaches with faith resources to improve trauma recovery. Whether you are a trauma survivor, a caregiving pastor or church member, or friend to a survivor, this book will familiarize you with trauma symptoms and healing strategies. 

Available on Amazon.

Other Resources

Article – How the Church Can Make Mental Illness a Topic of Conversation

One component of an effective inclusion strategy for persons with mental illness is developing a church-wide communication plan for mental health related topics. Here are five action items for pastors and other members of the leadership team to consider in crafting such a strategy:

  1. Preach it from the pulpit
  2. Remind your members, regular attenders, and visitors of the support your church offers
  3. The more persons with mental illnesses can see, hear, and experience your ministry environments online, the better
  4. Use your church’s social media platforms to pass along mental health-related links and posts for attendees to share with friends and neighbors
  5. Consider how your church can use online resources to promote offline connections with the people of your church 

View the article here.

Video – Sadness vs. Depression: Which Is It?

Bp Magazine columnist, Melody Moezzi, discusses the distinction between clinical depression and typical sadness in a video, Sadness vs. Depression – What Is It?  Moezzi writes:

“In the case of depression, a lot of cases it’s more identified not so much as sadness—sadness is there in a lot of cases, but there’s also an intense apathy and sort of heaviness, a feeling that like everything you’re doing is walking through water. Right, like it’s just everything’s a little harder to do. And for me and for a lot of other folks, depression involves a lot of isolation, a lot of just not answering phone calls, not replying to emails, those kinds of things. And it also can involve a lot of physical symptoms. For me, migraines; for other folks, migraines as well, but also other aches and pains and things like that. And then there are cognitive symptoms as well in terms of depression affecting memory.  And sleep, and you know, there are a lot of different symptoms. But again, the key in terms of the distinction of when you’re just feeling just sad and when you’re feeling [clinically] depressed is your ability to function within society”

The article and video are available here.
Book – For Such a Time as This: Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston Massacre

For Such a Time as This: Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston MassacreThe instant her phone rang, Reverend Sharon Risher sensed something was horribly wrong. Something had happened at Emanuel AME Church, the church of her youth in Charleston, South Carolina, and she knew her mother was likely in the church at Bible study. Even before she heard the news, her chaplain's instinct told her the awful truth: her mother was dead, along with two cousins. What she couldn't imagine was that they had been murdered by a white supremacist. Plunged into the depths of mourning and anger and shock, Sharon could have wallowed in the pain. Instead, she chose the path of forgiveness and hope - eventually forgiving the convicted killer for his crime.  This inspirational book is available at Chalice Press and on Amazon.

Tool – Possible Distinctions Between Depressive Grief and Clinical Depression

Mental Health Ministries has a handout tool that allows you to compare traits of normal grief and clinical depression, Possible Distinctions Between Depressive Grief and Clinical Depression.  It is available in English and Spanish. (PDF, English | PDF, Española)

Article – 12 Ways Parishes Can Support People with Mental Illness

While written from a Catholic perspective, these twelve suggestions on how faith communities can address mental illness offer ideas from preaching to political activism to show solidarity to people with mental illness in a variety of ways are applicable to any faith community.

View the article here.

Article – How Muslim Americans are Fighting Mental Health Stigma

Published in Psychology Today, "How Muslim Americans Are Fighting Mental Health Stigma," features Faith Communities Task Force member, Farha Abbasi (Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Michigan State University). As people in the Muslim American community continue to face distinct challenges related to mental illness and stigma, advocates and mental health professionals are working to come up with solutions. When Farha Abbasi was in her second year of psychiatric residency at Michigan State University about 15 years ago, she set up a booth at a health fair hosted by a local Islamic Center. From this experience and her work since, Abbasi, who is a psychiatrist and professor at Michigan State University, has learned how mental illness can be viewed in the Muslim community and other faith communities: “If it’s a physical condition, it’s okay to access help and talk about it,” she says. “But when it comes to mental struggles, people want to keep it quiet and secretive.” One reason for this, she says, is that community members often see mental illness as a mark of weakness—in their faith in God, in their character, or in their mind.

Article – Catholics Must Do More to Accompany People with Mental Illness

Catholics Must Do More to Accompany People with Mental IllnessCatholics have a responsibility to minister out of our gifts and experiences, says Deacon Tom Lambert, of the Archdiocese of Chicago. For him, that means responding to the lack of mental health resources in the church.

View the article here.

Book – A Pelican of the Wilderness: Depression, Psalms, Ministry and Movies

A Pelican of the Wilderness: Depression, Psalms, Ministry and MoviesAfter serving for more than thirty years as a parish minister, the author, Robert W. Griggs, was hospitalized with major depression. This is the story of his depression and recovery-a recovery of health, vocation, and faith. First, Griggs regained the experience of small pleasures. Eventually, he recovered the ability to choose, to set limits, and to accept reality. He then turned to the biblical Psalms-indeed his own writing echoes their candor. But he also found hope in films, including Breakfast at Tiffany's and Blazing Saddles. To the mental health issues facing clergy and others in the helping professions Griggs brings to bear insights from research and from his own experience as a pastor and a person recovering from depression. He tells his story with spirit and humor.

Available on Amazon.

Sign Up to Receive the Mental Health Ministries e-Spotlight Newsletter

If you wish to be added to receive our e-Spotlight newsletter, email Susan with your full name and email at  We send out six e-Spotlights a year full of timely resources.  All our Spotlights are archived on the website and most of the resources included can be found under the Resources section of the Mental Health Ministries website.  The topics are now alphabetized to help you easily access the helpful resources.

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Snippets from Susan

Rachael Keefe rewrote one of her favorite psalms to express her own prayer to remember that God is present in all times and places. God sees our wholeness when we see only brokenness, and God’s love remains steadfast through everything. May you will find hope and comfort in these words as well.

A Version of Psalm 139 for the Hard Days 

O Lord, you have been with me all along; you know me.

You know when I want to give up and when I am full of hope; you know my thoughts and my feelings even if I deny them.

You are with me when I greet the day with enthusiasm and when I don’t have the energy to get out of bed. I am not a mystery to you.

Before I can express myself, or know how I feel, you accept me as I am in every moment.

You are ready to catch me if I fall, lift me up when I am low, and hold onto me when I am anxious or afraid.

It’s hard to imagine that you love me all the time; sometimes I forget how amazingly strong your love for me is.

Where can I go where you are not already there? Where can I go where your love is not already waiting for me?

If I am filled with joy and energy overflowing, you are with me. If I lose my way in the depths of sorrow, you are with me.

If I push myself to the limits of endurance in body, mind, or spirit, 
even in those moments, you love me. You wrap me in your steadfast love and don’t ever let me go.

If I give in to the despair and cannot see your love and everything fades away,
even in my worst moments, your love still shines; the bleakest of my moods and the depths of my pain do not extinguish your love for me.

It is true that you made me in your image.  I praise you, for I am fiercely and beautifully made. I am part of your creation and all that is yours is priceless.

My life – my brokenness and my wholeness – are not hidden from you and have never been.

You have known me all along. Your desire for me is a life filled with love and a future filled with hope. You do not withhold these things from me.

It is hard to think like you do! When I try to understand your love, I am overwhelmed.

I try to count the ways you love me and there is no end. Your love has more facets than I can imagine.

I wish you could take this illness from me! I wish you could take away my despairing moments, the thoughts of worthlessness, and the pain of it all.

Some say that these are a punishment for my sins. I do not believe it! You see me whole while others see only my brokenness.

Allow me to see myself as you see me. May I also see others as you see them.

May my life reflect your love. May I forgive those who judge me and know so little of your compassion.

When you search me – my thoughts and my heart – may you see the fullness of who I am, all the strengths you have given me, the intricate person you created me to be...
I know there is illness in me, but that is not all of who I am.

Lead me into the wholeness you create in me, and teach me to love with your love, starting with myself then encompassing all my neighbors.

Person with arms outstretched on a hill from a distance



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