Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Summer 2021

Many faith communities are opening while still following CDC and state guidelines as more people are vaccinated. This has been a very difficult time for all of us and many persons struggle with mental health issues especially depression, anxiety, grief, and loneliness. Society as a whole, including our faith communities, need to continue to find ways to address mental health issues and provide appropriate support and care.

It has also been a challenging year for faith leaders, yet many faith communities have found creative ways to serve not only their congregants, but their community as well. A key activity for many groups has been small groups meeting virtually and now beginning to meet in person. Even as people gather, we have learned that Zoom has reached people who are not able or do not wish to come to the building, but still want to stay connected. Congregants continue to find ways to serve by distributing food, keeping in contact with persons isolated at home, volunteering in the community, helping to virtually teach and support kids over Zoom and finding other creative ways of staying involved and connected.

Mental Health Ministries continues to gather resources on the pandemic in the COVID section under Resources.

COVID-19 Resources from Mental Health Ministries

 

Articles & Resources

Article: Health Care Organizations Find Success with Faith-Based Allies in Vaccine Distribution

Distanced worshipJust as is happening on the global scene, U.S. health professionals are drawing on the expertise and connections of religious leaders who know the particular barriers that are preventing people in their communities from getting vaccinated. Armed with that knowledge, they jointly seek to increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations.

View the article on Religion News

New United Church of Christ Resource – Radical Belonging: A Mental Health Sunday Resource for All

Radical Belonging UCC ResourceAs our communities slowly emerge from the collective trauma of COVID-19, the losses of the pandemic weigh heavily on our lives and communities. Within this context, The United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network join their voices in calling faith communities to become intentionally inclusive places where God’s love is manifested through relationships of mutual respect for all people and their families, including those living with mental health challenges, substance use disorders, neurodevelopmental differences, brain disorders. This downloadable resource, available in both a PDF and a large print Word document, is for any congregation of any denomination that wishes to become a place of radical belonging.

Article – Mental Health Ministry–Beginning with Worship

Author Rev. Megan Osborn Snell writes, “When liturgy and worship become the work of the people, space for the sacred stories of those living with mental health conditions begin to have space in the collective experience. Isolation can break down and connection can be formed as people begin to understand the deep humanity of their neighbor in the pew.”

Resource – Parent's Guide to Teen Depression

Depressed teenagerData from Optum, an Employee Assistance Program, shows that for clergy, anxiety, depression, work/life balance and relationship issues were reported as top factors contributing to mental and emotional stress over the past year. This has required major changes in ministry, altering worship, pastoral care, funerals, meetings and more. In addition, the polarization of political and societal issues may have added to the stresses within the congregations and communities served.
 
Our children and teens have also been affected. While mental health issues for children and teens have been increasing over the last decade, the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the problem. According to a recent NPR story, psychiatrists and other doctors who work with children say the pandemic has created a perfect storm of stressors for kids, increasing the risk of suicide for many.

Remote learning is one contributing factor as teachers and school counselors are no longer at the front lines detecting when a student may be struggling. Therefore, parents may need to be much more vigilant in checking in with their children around their struggles and state of mind.

For key signs of depression and more information about teen depression read the Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression from Help Guide.

Article – For Community and Faith Leaders–Creating Community Connections for Mental Health

Faith and community leaders are often the first point of contact when individuals and families face mental health problems or traumatic events. In fact, in times of crisis, many will turn to trusted leaders in their communities before they turn to mental health professionals. When leaders know how to respond, they become significant assets to the overall health system.

This article from MentalHealth.gov offers suggestions of what faith leaders can do using these four topics.

• Educate your communities and congregations
• Identify opportunities to support people with mental illnesses
• Connect individuals and families to help
• Promote acceptance of those with mental health issues

For Community and Faith Leaders | MentalHealth.gov

 

Articles on Some Ways to Cope with Anxiety and Stress

Past Spotlights have lifted up resources on how to cope with anxiety and stress especially during this difficult time. Practicing mindfulness and painting have been especially helpful for me. Other persons I know are quilting, sewing masks for other, doing pottery, woodwork and finding new interests through Zoom groups. We have addressed the ideas given in the following four articles (gardening, exercise, pets, and music) but it always helps to be reminded of ways to cope with mental health issues.

Article – 10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

GardeningOne of the most helpful activities for me is working in my garden. In the spring and summer when bulbs pop up and flowers and trees emerge from a winter’s sleep, I feel a sense of hope. Getting outside not only gives me some exercise, but it also lifts my spirits. Some faith communities have community gardens or there may be ways to safely work outside with others to clean up and plant things around the buildings.
You will find more information on ten benefits of gardening in this article from Psychology Today.

1. Practicing Acceptance
2. Moving Beyond Perfectionism
3. Developing a Growth Mindset
4. Connecting with Others
5. Connecting to Your World
6. Bathing in Green
7. Being Present
8. Physical Exercise
9. Reducing Stress
10. Eating Healthfully

Article – The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

We all know the many benefits of exercise like boosting our mood, improving our sleep and helping us deal with depression, anxiety, stress and more. Having others advise us to exercise can make us feel worse when it is hard to get out of bed. This article offers some ways that may help us get started with exercise when we are living with a mental health issue.

• Start small. 
• Schedule workouts when your energy is highest. 
• Focus on activities you enjoy.  
• Be comfortable.  
• Reward yourself.  
• Make exercise a social activity. 
Article – How Owning a Dog or a Cat Can Reduce Stress

Charlie Brown - Life is better with a dogIn the article, “How Owning a Dog or Cat can Reduce Stress” Elizabeth Scott writes, “Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets, and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness.”

Article – How Listening to Music Can Have Psychological Benefits

Kendra Cherry writes in Very Well Mind, “The psychological effects of music can be powerful and wide-ranging. Music therapy is an intervention sometimes used to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being. Some research even suggests that your taste in music can provide insight into different aspects of your personality.”

Article – The Importance of Community and Mental Health

Community gardenOne of the things that has been most difficult during the pandemic, is finding ways to connect to other people. Many of us were isolated from our family, our friends, our faith community, and other groups we belonged to. We learned Zoom and other virtual ways to keep connected. But as many of us get vaccinated, there is nothing like finally being able to be with and hug those persons we care about.

This article by NAMI addresses the need we all have for support and connection.

The Importance of Community and Mental Health | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Article – Caregiver Mental Health

10 Tips for Family Caregivers ChartAccording to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
40-70% of caregivers show symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression.

This chart from Church and Mental Health offers 10 tips for Family Caregivers.

It Worked For Us

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. There is the recognition that faith communities are in a unique position to be caring congregations for persons living with a mental illness and those who care for them. When faith leaders and faith communities are educated about mental illness, they can be an important part of a support community by forming collaborative relationships with local mental health providers, advocacy groups and other community partners.

We can learn from each other.


The It Worked For Us section of our website is a way for faith communities to share what they are doing…what has worked and what the challenges have been. How did your ministry get started?  Where did you find the support and encouragement to move forward?  What resources did you find helpful?  Each congregation is unique and will create ministries appropriate to the needs of their community.

There are many exciting and creative ministries out there! Seeds are being planted and many are flourishing in surprising ways. Because it is an ever evolving and changing landscape, staffing, and funding cutbacks impact outreach programs. Certainly, the COVID pandemic has caused faith communities to discover new ways to reach out to their parishioners and the community at large. It is not possible to keep a current list of active ministries. Instead, my hope is that in sharing your experiences, we might offer ideas and encouragement to others to help them begin or expand a mental health ministry.

You are invited and encouraged to share what is happening in your congregation, faith group or community to erase the stigma of mental illness and provide caring and compassionate support for persons affected by mental illness. You can contact Mental Health Ministries through the website or by e-mailing Susan at sgschroed@cox.net.

 

Books

Book –  Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints Who Struggled with Depression and Doubt

(Available from InterVarsity Press)

The church's relationship with depression has been fraught: for centuries, depression was assumed to be evidence of personal sin or even demonic influence. The depressed have often been ostracized or institutionalized. In recent years, the conversation has begun to change, and the stigma has lessened—but as anyone who suffers from depression knows, we still have a long way to go.

In Companions in the Darkness, Diana Gruver looks back into church history and finds depression in the lives of some of our most beloved saints, including Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr. Without trying to diagnose these figures from a distance, Gruver tells their stories in fresh ways, taking from each a particular lesson that can encourage or guide those who suffer today. Drawing on her own experience with depression, Gruver offers a wealth of practical wisdom both for those in the darkness and those who care for them.

Book – Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma

(Available on Amazon)

Sacred Wounds Our faith communities can be a source of care, support, and spiritual nurture. But we know that some faith communities still see mental illness as a moral or spiritual failure and their beliefs can be very hurtful to persons of faith who are living with mental illness.

Trauma therapist Teresa B. Pasquale offers healing exercises, true-life examples, and life-giving discussion for anyone suffering from the very real pain of church hurt. Pasquale, a trauma survivor herself, understands the immeasurable value of our wounds once we have acknowledged them and recovered in community. That is why the wounds are "sacred," and the hope this book offers is a powerful message to anyone suffering from this widespread problem. This book explores the nature of emotional wounds, trauma, and spiritual hurt that come from negative religious experience.

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 website. 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 resources.

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Snippets from Susan

I read this story from an unknown author and I believe it has a hopeful message for all of us.

A professor gave a balloon to every student, who had to inflate it, write their name on it, and throw it in the hallway. The professors then mixed all the balloons. The students were given 5 minutes to find their own balloon. Despite a hectic search, no one found their balloon. At that point, the professors told the students to take the first balloon that they found and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The professors said to the students: “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people's happiness.... we will find ours too.

 

Susan

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