Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Spring 2021

Mental Health and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Spring, the Season of New BeginningsWe are emerging from a difficult winter season and we celebrate signs of new life. Nature has been waiting, but now bulbs are pushing up toward the light from the dark soil. Trees are budding. Birds are singing songs of hope. And our world is experiencing signs of hope as we celebrate vaccines and as we begin to return to some degree of normalcy.

Mental Health Ministries has added to the section on COVID-19 Resources as we all continue to struggle with the effects of this pandemic. With over half a million deaths in the United States, we especially keep in our prayers those who have lost a loved one and whose lives are forever changed.

COVID-19 Resources: For Mental Health Ministries Resources, click here

This is also the time of year that three faith traditions have significant holidays. Christians will be celebrating Easter on April 4 which falls on the last day of the Passover holiday for the Jewish faith. Muslims will be following the traditions of Ramadan April 12-May 12. An imam has said that the message of all three faiths in this time of COVID is that it gives us the opportunity to think in a bigger sphere as to how we are all connected to each other and how our actions impact one another.

 

Articles

Article: What It Means to "Gather" for Easter, Passover, and Ramadan This Year

As many houses of worship prepare for upcoming holidays like Easter, as well as Passover and Ramadan, communities are utilizing the various technologies at their disposal, from real-time virtual “gatherings” in Zoom to prerecorded devotions via website portals. Where these digital initiatives were previously supplemental, they have now become the central means of convening during the pandemic for those adhering to social distancing. Some faith communities are holding worship outside or with limited parishioners inside but many of us will be sharing these holy days without traditional family gatherings.

View the article on Vox

Article – Seven Trends to Watch in 2021

A thoughtful article from The Christian Century addresses how COVID has changed our faith communities. Faith, vision, creativity, and perseverance will be the qualities most needed by our churches going forward. Among the trends identified by Steven Martin is the fact that today possibilities for sharing faith are unparalleled in history.

Martin lifts up seven trends to watch for as faith communities look to the future. He states, “Communications technology has revolutionized life in this century, and for better or worse, we’re living in a different world than the one we had just a few years ago. This has positive ramifications for church leaders. As many have seen online services reach more people than would normally attend an in-person service, the church has been released from the confines of time and space. Ministry can be available 24/7 (without the pastor being available as well!) and reach into corners previously unreachable.”

Article – Emotional Resilience for Clergy and Congregations In These Trying Times

Resilience graphicNo one has escaped the impact of COVID-19. Stress, tragedy, trauma, disease, economic and interpersonal difficulties are knocking some of us down. As we look up from the floor, our perspective can be skewed. We see only this moment and in doing so, can succumb to overwhelming helplessness.

The UCC Mental Health Network (United Church of Christ Mental Health Network) – Working to reduce stigma & promote the inclusion of people with mental illnesses/brain disorders offers concrete ways to build emotional resilience.

Emotional Resilience in Trying Times (Article 1/16/2021)

Article – Mental Health in the Pandemic

Ministry Matters - Uncertainty GraphicFundamentally, we are all experiencing a kind of trauma. The more we remind each other of this fact and tell one another that it is okay to not feel like we are flourishing right now, the more we can relieve some of the guilt and pressure we might feel. For churches who are used to springing into action, it can be tempting to institute new programs or ministries to address the suffering in our midst. However, this simply tacks on yet another task, when so many people are struggling to stay afloat.

If you are currently part of a church without an active mental health ministry, now is probably not the time to start one. On the other hand, the community care already active within the church can be meaningful. Sending handwritten cards, making phone calls and dropping off baked goods are a few ways of staying connected and finding a purpose during this difficult time. Giving one another grace if we are slow to respond or drop the ball is another way the church can model care for one another right now. Though there is always a temptation to prove our worth through doing more, now might be the time to step back and slow down.

Ministry Matters™ | Mental health in the pandemic

Article – Faith and COVID-19: The Christian Chronicle's Top Stories on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Christian Chronicle Covid-19 ResourcesThe Christian Chronicle is an international newsletter for Churches of Christ. It offers in-depth coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. From Christians battling the virus to churches working to slow its spread, articles are available at Faith and COVID-19 | The Christian Chronicle

Article – Across Denominations, Where is God When it Comes to Mental Illness?

From the United Church of Christ to the Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America to the Church of the Brethren, pastors across denominations are encountering people in acute mental health crisis. Despite the sustained stigma surrounding mental health in Christian circles, many people still turn to their local pastor before seeking out care from a mental health provider or physician. This undergirds the importance of clergy and church communities becoming better equipped to be welcoming and affirming spaces for those with mental health conditions.

Across denominations, where is God when it comes to mental illness? - The Christian Citizen

Article – The Everyday and the Wondrous—A Prayer on the Occasion of Receiving the Coronavirus Vaccine

Coronavirus VaccineRev. Michael Woolf wrote a prayer to be recited upon receiving the coronavirus vaccine for members of his congregation and for the wider world. “In a time where some religious communities are skeptical of the coronavirus vaccine, this prayer is an attempt to sacralize the experience, and to say emphatically that we will be receiving the vaccine when available and I encourage you to do so as well. When you do receive the vaccine, you will not do it alone; you will be held in the love of God.”

 Sustainer of All,

Hold me in your care as I receive this vaccine,
The work of scientists, the labor of healthcare professionals.
Bless the swirl of molecules and antibodies,
the mystical give-and-take of my body.
 
Remove from me fear,
For many have gone down this path before me,
And many shall go after me.
You made all things and called them good.
 
Open my heart to gratitude,
Even in the midst of much suffering.
I give thanks for this jab,
A strange way to receive a blessing.
 
Stir my conscience to consideration of others,
That I may not forget my mask just because I am protected.
Remind me of my obligations to my community and myself,
And give me courage to receive my next dose.
 
Awaken me to vulnerability,
While I am a soul of light, I am an embodied being.
Draw near to me this day,
As I choose to celebrate life and community.
Amen.

Article – Faith Groups Step Up to Host Vaccine Sites. Why Churches Are Key Places, Especially for People of Color

Across the country, more faith-based groups are stepping up as vaccine sites, particularly in communities of color, which have been disproportionately hard hit by the novel coronavirus.

Churches have often been a cornerstone in the fight against inequities and a trusted source of information and guidance during troubled times. During the pandemic, vaccinations have become the latest public service in a health and economic crisis that has seen places of worship offer canned food, clothing, housing and other assistance.

COVID vaccine sites: Churches offer vaccinations to help US rollout (usatoday.com)

May is 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. While May is designated as Mental Health Month, educating about mental health issues is important any time of the year. Many more people are dealing with mental health issues during this pandemic.

Mental Health Ministries Resources Section: May Is Mental Health Month

Mental Health Ministries has a section on our website, Mental Health Month, with a variety of educational and worship resources appropriate to use in May or any time of the year. The section includes downloadable resources created by Mental Health Ministries including three bulletin inserts or flyers. There are also worship aids, bulletins, flyers and resources offered by various faith groups. Even if not meeting in person, faith leaders can refer parishioners to resources in their community for help and support.

Mental Health First Aid

With many faith communities still worshipping and doing groups virtually, this is a good time to consider offering classes to help persons understand and deal with various mental health issues that are affecting so many during this difficult time. One excellent class that is offered virtually is Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. For more information you can visit Mental Health First Aid. Many faith leaders have been trained in this program and may be able to offer a class in your congregation or community.

Books

Book – Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage

Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and MarriageAuthor of Blessed are the Crazy, Sarah Griffith Lund opens up about depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in her own marriage and shares stories of other couples who have been impacted by mental illnesses such as addiction, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, suicidality, and more.

Using traditional marriage vows as a framework for the book, Blessed Union explores the challenges of loving in the midst of mental health challenges, why it happens, what we can do about it, and how our faith is connected to mental illness. This book reminds us that we are not alone and invites us to break the silence around marriage and mental illness.

Available on Amazon

Book – Weekly Soul

Weekly Soul is a collection of 52 meditations on meaningful, joyful and peaceful living. The meditations begin with thought-provoking quotations from a range of people--writers, journalists, theologians, musicians and artists, activists--and touch on themes of Miracles, Aliveness, Purpose, Laughter and Joy, Presence/Mindfulness, Activism, Acceptance, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Creativity, Civility, and Hope. Each meditation also offers Dr. Craigie's stories and commentary, questions for individual and group reflection, suggestions for daily follow-up, and biographical background on the quotation authors.

In Weekly Soul, readers will find a year's worth of affirmation and engaging exploration of wholeness and well-being. Frederic Craigie, Ph.D., [the author] is a clinical psychologist, consultant, educator, speaker, and writer. His passions and areas of expertise include spirituality in health and health care, healing relationships, clinician well-being, and resiliency and positive mental health.

Available on Amazon

Book – Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis

Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of CrisisIt is a challenging time for people who experience anxiety, and even people who usually don't experience it are finding their moods are getting the better of them. Anxiety hits hard and its symptoms are unmistakable, but sometimes in the rush and confusion of uncertainty we miss those symptoms until it is too late. When things seem to be coming undone, it is still possible to recognize the onset of anxiety and act to prevent the worst of it. George Hofmann takes a unique approach to developing better awareness of the body and how to head off disabling angst-filled episodes. 

Available on Amazon

Other Resources

Virtual Choirs

During this time of uncertainty and physical isolation, a number of faith communities and other groups have come together to form virtual choirs. Many include people from all over the world.

Australia

THE BLESSING AUSTRALIA - Churches UNITE to sing The Blessing over Australia - YouTube

The Blessing Australia Virutal Choir

Irish Blessing Hymn

Song from Churches of Ireland | Video: The Irish Blessing | Overseas Adventure Travel (oattravel.com)

United Methodist Mental Health Task Force

The Voice of the United Methodist Disability Connection - Mental Health EditionAs a United Methodist pastor, I am gratified to see the formation of a Mental Health Task Force and the publication of their first newsletter. This is their mission statement and below is a link to their first newsletter.

The United Methodist Mental Health Task Force’s mission is to promote mental health and empower persons living with mental illness for full inclusion within all levels of the church and society through a network of communication, education, program development, advocacy and support. 

VOICE of the UMC Disability Connection (constantcontact.com)

Distinguishing Depressive Grief and Clinical Depression

We are all grieving many different types of losses as we have lived with COVID-19 for over a year. There is a dramatic rise in mental health issues including depression. And sadly, the loss of loved ones and friends to this pandemic has touched everyone. The death of a family member has been made more difficult as often we have not been able to be with our loved one as they passed.

For faith leaders, families and friends, it is often difficult to distinguish between normal reactions to grief and clinical depression. This chart gives some guidance to compare traits of normal grief and clinical depression so that we might recognize when a person needs the help of a mental health professional. (PDF, English | PDF, Español)

NAMICon 2021 Virtual National Convention

NAMI Convention 2021A bright spot in a year defined by distance, isolation and adversity was the success of NAMICon 2020, their first virtual national convention. The online event allowed NAMI to globally expand its national reach. With more than 12,500 attendees and 37 countries represented, NAMI shared important resources, research updates and programming to our broadest community of individuals, families, friends, allies and advocates ever. The virtual NAMICon 2021 will be July 27-28 with the theme of Bringing People Together for Mental Health.

NAMI National Convention | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI FaithNet

NAMI FaithNet is an information exchange network of NAMI members friends, clergy and congregations of all faith traditions who wish to create more welcoming and supportive faith communities for persons and families touched by mental illness.

Helpful articles and resources are listed on the NAMI FaithNet web page like the article, How to Be Inclusive and Welcoming.

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

If you wish to be added to receive our e-Spotlight newsletter on the website or email Susan with your full name and email at sgschroed@cox.net.  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 alphabetized to help you easily access the helpful resources.

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Snippets from Susan

Forest Bathing
One of my favorite places is Redwood National Park in Northern California. There is something indescribable about standing underneath these massive redwoods. Redwood trees are the tallest, among the oldest, and one of the most massive tree species on earth. I feel a sense of calm and a release of stress as I look up at these magnificent trees.

Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing is the practice of spending time in the forest for better health, happiness and a sense of calm. A pillar of Japanese culture for decades, Shinrin-Yoku is a way to reconnect with nature, from walking mindfully in the woods, to a break in your local park, to walking barefoot on your lawn. Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition.

In this time of COVID, connecting with nature is even more important. You can forest-bathe anywhere like in your garden or nearby park. Having plants in your living space is another way to be nurtured and connected by nature. Whatever you do, taking time to feel connected to nature will enhance your overall sense of well-being.

 

Susan

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