Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Holiday 2020

Covid-19 will redefine the meaning of the holidays this year. This pandemic continues to affect all aspects of our daily life. After so many months of quarantine and limited interaction with family and friends, we are seeing the mental health toll of coronavirus. Many are facing an uncertain financial future. Many have lost loved ones often without being able to say good-bye. And many more have been sick with coronavirus. It is easy to understand this upsurge in depression and other mental health issues with no immediate end-in-sight.

People will be yearning to connect with family, friends and their faith community this holiday season. But this will not be possible for many due to precautions needed to prevent others from becoming sick. Many of our holiday traditions will need to be celebrated in new ways. We may be having virtual holiday dinners over Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or other platforms.

It is even more important that we look to our many religious traditions to remind us of finding hope in the midst of the darkness. We may be participating in worship services virtually, outside or with social distancing. With less commercialism and unrealistic expectations of the “perfect” holidays, we have the opportunity to find ways to create more meaningful holiday traditions. We have the opportunity to pause and remind ourselves of the many blessings we do have in our life. As the meme below reminds us, “There is always, always something to be thankful for.

There is always, always something to be thankful for.

Article – COVID-19: Creative Ways to Stay Connected with Loved Ones this Thanksgiving

COVID-19: Creative Ways to Stay Connected with Loved Ones this ThanksgivingThis article from Your Health Matters emphasizes the need to stay connected during the holidays.
Holiday events such as Thanksgiving are a time to disconnect from our busy lives and slow down so that we can connect, reflect with, and listen to our cherished ones as we express gratitude for all we have. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and that safety measures such as physical distancing are still in place, 2020 is a time to explore different ways to re-connect. What is now important is discovering how to put new spins on old traditions in order for friends and family to stay connected in a safe way.

Article – Holy Hopelessness: Depression's Teaching of Advent Hope

Holy Hopelessness: Depression's Teaching of Advent HopeDenise shares her thoughts on this holy season on the Anabaptist Disabilities Network website.  And for those for whom lightness and joy do greet you this advent season, I encourage you to be God’s hands gently turning the faces of the hopeless to the stars. Be a nonjudgmental listener. Refuse to be afraid of someone else’s sorrow. Invite those who need companionship into your home and family gatherings. Give the gift of a massage or provide respite for caregivers. Above all, be present -- seeing your own Hope as a commodity that can help others keep walking, breathing, and expecting.

Article – How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays

We have all experienced so much loss this year. It is normal to feel grief during the holidays with so much emphasis on families and friends coming together. There will be fewer family gatherings, and, for many, there will be an empty chair this year with family members losing their life to the coronavirus. This article by Pyschology Today offers some ways to help get through the holidays with a loved one. You can read more under each of these topics.

1. Trust That Grief Is Part of Healing
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
3. Focus on What You Can Control
4. Plan Ahead
5. Allow Yourself to Feel a Range of Emotions
6. Find a Way to Honor Your Memories
7. Create New Traditions
8. Do Something Kind for Others
9. Ask for Help

Article – Coronavirus grief: Coping with the loss of routine during the pandemic

This article from the Mayo Clinic offers some ideas about dealing with grief and loss during this pandemic. Recognizing grief about not having all the holiday celebrations and gatherings this year is difficult for us all.

Blue Christmas and Blue Holiday Worship Services in Times of COVID

Many congregations have offered Blue Christmas or Blue Holiday worship services during this season to acknowledge that the holiday season can be difficult. With the coronavirus, people are grieving many losses, yet many in-person services will not happen because of the COVID virus. But many faith communities will be offering virtual services. Such services are reflective, accepting the reality of where we are emotionally. They offer a message of hope and the assurance of God’s presence with us in the midst of our darkness.

There are several sites on the internet that provide worship resources suitable for use at a “Blue Christmas” or “Longest Night” worship services. One example is the Blue Christmas Worship Resource Index.

There are samples of Blue Christmas and a Blue Interfaith Holiday Service in the Worship section under Resources on the Mental Health Ministries website.

The longest night is often blue.Prayer of the Church during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Gracious and loving God,
the Psalmist reminds us that,
‘You are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’

God, we feel deeply that our world is in trouble
with the spread of the coronavirus.
There is a heightened sense of fear and anxiety about the future.

We ask that we may calmly and lovingly trust in you
and care for all who are affected by this pandemic.
Please bless the work of health professionals,
government officials, aged care providers, school and community leaders.
Grant them strength and wisdom.

We pray for all who feel stressed and worried,
that they might find peace and reassurance.
Free us from panic and selfish stockpiling.

We pray for all those who mourn the loss of loved ones to the virus,
that they will find comfort and support.

May all our congregations and faith communities
be places of empathy, compassion and calm in all we face.

~ written by Rev. Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Virtual Choir Performs "Sing Gently"

17,572 singers from 129 countries come together to perform Eric Whitacre's "Sing Gently".

Article: Prayer for Pandemic Times

Prayer for Pandemic TimesA poll from the Pew Research Center, conducted in March 2020 among U.S. adults, shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on spiritual habits by bringing more people to the practice of prayer.

Spirituality & Practice has found 12 prayers for pandemic times from a collection of prayers from different traditions for praying about COVID-19.

Article – Ministering with Families in the Ongoing Pandmeic

Ministering with Families in the Ongoing PandemicEmily Peck McClain for Resource UMC describes the very real challenges children, youth, and families face during this time of upheaval and distance from physical church. She offers practical suggestions for how congregations can meet their material, spiritual, and emotional needs.

The Blessing of the Masks

The Blessing of the MasksMay our Good and Loving Creator bless these masks and the hands that made them
May these coverings of love and smiles reveal eyes that speak and cry
May they speak for the heart within, beating for life and breath
May these masks be as life-giving as trees
May masks mirror our kinship with Sister, Mother Earth
~ Moe Nieman and Nell Wulff

Article – Perseverance and Endurance

Perseverance and EndurancePerseverance and Endurance by Finola Colgan helps us deal with the upside-down world that Dorothy emerges from “having overcome obstacles and learns about endurance and discovered her own courage, love, and intelligence...” We are encouraged to have the approach “to endure and make consistent efforts to make the most of our circumstances.”

Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine

This is a list of helpful tips for dealing with the quarantine.

NOTE: Author is unknown but is a doctoral level Psychologist in NYS with a Psy.D. in the specialties of School and Clinical Psychology. (PDF, English)

Article – Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies

The coronavirus can significantly affect mental health for everyone, but especially for those with mental illness. Both the anxiety of contracting the disease as well as the increase in loneliness and isolation can worsen and trigger symptoms. Acknowledging, recognizing and acting on mental distress in these uncertain times is key to lessening the impact. Read more on the NAMI website.

Pathways to Hope Conference

The fifth annual Pathways to Hope conference was held in August. Pathways to Hope is a free virtual conference bringing together mental health professionals, social workers, educators, the judicial system, law enforcement, faith community leaders, caregivers, and individuals living with a diagnosis to help improve the mental health care system. You can access workshops and plenary sections by going to the link https://www.pathwaystohope.net/. Use the button at the top of the page that says EVENT REPLAYS to access instructions on how to find each speaker for the plenary sessions and workshops for the various tracts offered.

COVID-19 Recommended Preventative Practices and FAQs for Faith-Based and Community Leaders

(PDF, English)

Faith-based and community leaders continue to be valuable sources of comfort and support for their members and communities during times of distress, including the growing presence of COVID-19 in different parts of the country. As such, these leaders have the unique ability to address potential concerns, fears, and anxieties regarding COVID-19. Additionally, by reiterating simple hygienic precautions and practices, these leaders can broadly promote helpful information, managing fear and stigma, and restoring a sense of calm into the lives of those in their care. 

Such leaders are also poised ― through their acts of service and community relationships ― to reach vulnerable populations with essential information and assistance. These acts of service are an essential part of the safety net for the vulnerable in their communities.

Article – The Covid-19 Tests Everyone's Spiritual Well-Being, Athiests and Believers Alike

The Covid-19 Tests Everyone's Spiritual Well-being, Athiests and Believers AlikeThis article, written by Eric Hall for NBC News, shares how chaplains can support persons dealing with all the emotions that we are experiencing during this time of Covid-19. He writes, “During a major crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to make sure that everyone is getting spiritual care. While it’s difficult to generalize about this finding, chaplains often see people who have, in the midst of all of the suffering experienced by themselves and others, found the peace that comes from spiritual grounding in the face of tragedy. In the midst of this pandemic, we have all heard numerous stories of the “heroes” who put themselves and their families at risk of sickness and death in order to care for others. This group includes front-line health care providers and first responders, of course, but also people like bus drivers and grocery clerks. Keying into the inspiration and community they provide can be powerful antidotes to the loss and despair that could otherwise overwhelm us, religious and nonreligious alike.”

Books

NEW BOOK – Held: Showing Up for Each Other's Mental Health

(Available on Amazon)

Held: Showing Up for Each Other's Mental HealthCommunity minister and mental health advocate Barbara F. Meyers illustrates how members of liberal religious congregations can be supportive to those living with mental health problems, and their loved ones, in our congregations and society at large. Meyers addresses the fundamental elements of spiritual support truth, hope, presence, acceptance, encouragement, authenticity, public witness, pastoral care, and safe places with stories from real life situations and suggestions for how parishioners can provide and advocate for support in their congregations. A study guide for congregations and a list of resources for more information round out this thoughtful and necessary resource. 

Book – Finding Jesus in the Storm: The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges

(Available on Amazon)

People living with mental health challenges are not excluded from God’s love or even the fullness of life promised by Jesus. Unfortunately, this hope is often lost amid the well-meaning labels and medical treatments that dominate the world of mental health today. In Finding Jesus in the Storm, John Swinton makes the case for reclaiming that hope by changing the way we talk about mental health and remembering that, above all, people are people, regardless of how unconventionally they experience life. This means accepting the reality and ramifications of suffering while also affirming that there is more to humanity than cells and synapses.  Finding Jesus in the Storm is a call for the church to be an epicenter of compassion for those experiencing depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and related difficulties.

Book – With Sighs Too Deep for Words: Grace and Depression

(Available on Amazon)

The stigma around mental illness in our culture has had a damaging effect on those who suffer from its grip. As a priest and bishop, Robert Hirschfeld has quietly and secretly been in treatment for depression for decades but now shares his own experience publicly. In this book, he offers short meditations, prayers, and suggestions of how one can follow and call upon Jesus for strength and peace during times of emotional upheaval.

Giving Tuesday

Help erase the stigma of mental illness

Mental Health Ministries is an interfaith web-based ministry to provide educational resources to help erase the stigma of mental illness in our faith communities. Our mission is to help faith communities be caring congregations for people living with a mental illness and those who love and care for them.

Your donation will help Mental Health Ministries continue to provide a wide variety of user-friendly downloadable print and video resources with many of the print resources available in Spanish. This website also has training curriculums and other resources developed by denominations and national groups working in the area of spirituality/faith and mental illness. 

In this season of giving, please consider a tax-deductible gift to Mental Health Ministries. This year Mental Health Ministries became a program under Pathways to Promise which offers more opportunities for collaboration. Your tax-deductible donations to the support the mission of Mental Health Ministries can be sent to the address below or you can donate online.

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

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

If you wish to be added to receive our e-Spotlight newsletter, you can sign up on the Mental Health Ministries website email Susan with your full name and email at sgschroed@cox.net.  We send out approximately 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

It continues to be a difficult and uncertain time for all of us. There are days when I lack the motivation to do much of anything as I feel sadness about all the plans and activities that we have lost. I decided to refocus on the new opportunities offered by this time at home. My husband and I have enjoyed working in our garden, watching the birds, connecting to people and classes with Zoom calls and learning to live in the present moment.

Many people I know are finding that different expressions of art can help with stress. The article “Stress Management: Keep Calm & Make Art” talks about using art as meditation and calm through creativity.

A highlight for me has been the opportunity to pursue my interest in watercolor painting. I now have an “art studio” on our dining room table and I can continue to learn through Zoom art classes. And I recently became an art teacher!

My favorite time of the week is teaching watercolor on Zoom to my twelve-year-old granddaughter. She has become a prolific painter that gives her an added activity to do during her week. She makes paintings and cards to give to family and friends. We now have a shared creative activity but, more importantly, we have a special connection and bond that will last far beyond this challenging time.

Finding ways to connect with friends and family will be different this year. Sharing something that you have created through some form of art becomes a true gift of caring this holiday season.

 

Susan

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