Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Summer 2018

The fourth of the ten commandments is
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, ESV).

Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.Summer is a time when many people take time to “vacate” from their normal activities.  There are no major religious holidays so summer is also a respite for faith leaders...fewer meetings!  The word remember is important in the fourth commandment.  Most of us need reminders to take time to slow down, put down our cell phones and set aside time to just “be.”

Book - Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives

Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy LivesIn today's world, with its relentless emphasis on success and productivity, we have lost the necessary rhythm of life, the balance between work and rest. Constantly striving, we feel exhausted and deprived in the midst of great abundance. We long for time with friends and family, we long for a moment to ourselves. 

Millennia ago, the tradition of Sabbath created an oasis of sacred time within a life of unceasing labor. Now, in a book that can heal our harried lives, Wayne Muller, shows us how to create a special time of rest, delight, and renewal--a refuge for our souls. 

We need not even schedule an entire day each week. Sabbath time can be a Sabbath afternoon, a Sabbath hour, a Sabbath walk. With wonderful stories, poems, and suggestions for practice, Muller teaches us how we can use this time of sacred rest to refresh our bodies and minds, restore our creativity, and regain our birthright of inner happiness. Available on Amazon.

Clergy Self-Care

Clergy Self-CareSometimes congregations need to encourage and support faith leaders to take Sabbath time.  Mental Health Ministries has a brochure, Clergy Self-Care: How Clergy and Congregations Can Prevent Burnout and Support Healthy Living.  This brochure highlights issues regarding clergy burnout. It offers some ideas on what clergy can do and how congregations can be supportive of their faith leaders. It is available on the Mental Health Ministries website as a brochure under Resources. 

Article: Mental Health: Clergy Job Often Equals Stress

Close to 50 percent of United Methodist clergy who answered a survey conducted by the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits said their jobs stressed them out.  While this article is based on a United Methodist survey, the findings are helpful for clergy from all faith traditions.  In addition to stress and depression, the survey found United Methodist clergy have a higher percentage of physical conditions including obesity (40 percent), high cholesterol (51 percent), borderline high blood pressure (prehypertension) (11 percent), asthma (17 percent) and pre-diabetes (9 percent).  "If you look at our disability claims for clergy, you see that mental health ends up being a much higher reason (for resigning) than in an average workplace setting," Kelly Wittich said. "These are mental health issues extreme enough to keep people from continuing."  "I don't think a lot of the folks in the pews realize or think of their clergyperson as a human who has the same vulnerabilities as all of us."

Some tips for congregations include:

  • Make sure your clergyperson is taking time off for Sabbath and vacation. Don't schedule meetings every night of the week. Give pastors time to spend with their families.
  • Welcome new pastors and their families. Be the emotional support for them instead of just expecting it from them.
  • Handle conflicts in a loving, Christian manner.

Read the article here.

Article - I'm a Pastor with Depression. For Years I Thought I Had to Hide It

In an article from Sojourners, Jason Chesnut shares his story of a pastor living with depression.  He states, “One of the most insidious parts of mental illness is the feeling that no one else could possibly understand what you are going through. The isolation is immense and inescapable. Your brain feeds into this, and the demon wants nothing more than for you to suffer in silence. This is an acute distress for those in the church, where our identities are usually rooted in commandments around community.”

Read the article here.

Book – In the Shadow of God's Wings: Grace in the Midst of Depression

In the Shadow of God's Wings: Grace in the Midst of DepressionRev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder offers a bold statement about living with chronic depression and discovering gifts of God in the midst of that depression. Taking readers on her own personal journey into depression, Gregg-Schroeder relates the wisdom of experience and moves beyond her experience to offer universal truths concerning depression and spirituality. 

Note: This item is only available on Amazon from third-party sellers.  It can also be purchased from the Mental Health Ministries website for $10.

Article – Preaching on Mental Health

Preaching on Mental Health“Preaching on Mental Health” is an article by Rev. Shane Moore.  After encouragement from others he preached a four-week sermon series entitled “Faithfully Mindful.” Moore says, “Each week we looked at issues surrounding mental health and essential self-care from a scriptural perspective. Then after the sermon, we had a “Mental Health Moment” that provided the more practical aspects of mental health and included ways to care for our own mental health.” This article includes scripture and suggestions for preaching a sermon addressing mental health.

Article – Ways to Be a Good Friend for Someone With a Mental Illness

Ways to be a Good Friend for someone with a mental illnessFriends and family often do not know what to say and can give advice that can be hurtful instead of helpful.  The authors of this article asked people who live with mental illnesses to tell share what makes a good friend.

Read the article here.

Article – America's Long-Suffering Mental Health System

America's Long-suffering Mental Health SystemA familiar scene plays out again and again in American public life in the 21st century. In the wake of the mass shooting such as the one in Parkland, FL, commentators, pundits, and politicians all gather around to talk about the country’s broken mental health system and suggest its connection to the violence.  In the article, America’s Long-Suffering Mental Health System, historian Zeb Larson traces how our response to mental illness has been shaped by a faith that such illness can be cured and a desire to deal with the mentally ill as cheaply as possible.  This is an excellent overview of how mental illness has been viewed and treated over time and where we are today.

YouTube Video – People with Mental Health Disabilities Shut Down Dangerous Ideas About Gun Violence

The assertion that severe mental illnesses cause gun violence, specifically mass shootings, is not helpful and not accurate, but it is harmful. It is a dangerous idea. And we hear it from the media and our leaders all the time. View the video here.

Article – The Silent Stigma of Mental Illness

The Silent Stigma of Mental IllnessAn article from Sojourners by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza statesChristianity has a bad habit of diminishing the body in favor of elevating the mind. For Plato and Descartes, two philosophers who have heavily influenced the Western church’s thinking on spirit and flesh, the body was imagined as an inferior attachment to an idealized, spiritual mind.  What this has created is a divide between body and soul — a focus on the care of the soul in our churches, with little attention given to how the health of mind, body, and soul are integrated. This has not only created bad religion, but has meant that Christians overlook the prevalence of mental illness in their churches. And this is affecting church communities in significant ways.”  “The bottom line, Rev. Onofrio said, is that illnesses and disabilities don’t fit in to mainstream theologies. Because of this, Christian ethics and moral imagination often diminish people who live with experiences of mental illness.” 

Read the article here.

Article – The Power of Faith

The Power of FaithThe Power of Faith offers research showing that those who identify with a particular faith or spiritual tradition fare better when the ground gets shaky.  The article shares how the tenets of many faith traditions including Christian, Buddhist and Islam can be a source of hope for those struggling with mental illness.  “Faith and spirituality - whether formal or informal, and regardless of doctrine— can be an immense source of strength and comfort when dealing with the highs and lows of bipolar. Faith traditions provide a message of hope, a blueprint for living and a way to interpret the world, which can bring a sense of control and serenity when times are tough.”

View the article here.

Nouwen Website - Out of the Depths

Nouwen NetworkOut of the depths is unique in that it is an Australian site solely for resources on the theme of mental illness ministry, prayer and spirituality founded on the writings of Henri Nouwen. These resources have been presented like an anthology so they can be readily accessed by those needing them, whether those with a mental health concern, their families, pastors or support workers. Visit the website.

To give new hope. We trust that those visiting this site will know you are loved, accepted and supported in your journey with mental health concerns – however that particular journey has been unfolding.  One of our desires for this resource is for you to know that you are not alone in your journey, and that there are those in our churches who do care and who would like to be an encouragement to you as you go through your tough times and also as you experience the joys of life.

“Writing about the spiritual life is like making prints from negatives … Often it is the dark forest that makes us speak about the open field. Frequently prison makes us think about freedom, hunger helps us to appreciate food, and war gives us words for peace. Not seldom are our vision of the future born out of the sufferings of the present and our hope for others out of our own despair. Only few ‘happy endings’ make us happy but often someone’s careful and honest articulation of the ambiguities, uncertainties, and painful conditions of life gives us new hope. The paradox is indeed that new life is born out of the pains of the old.”  – Henri Nouwen

Sermon – A Sermon of Truth About Depression

"The stigma felt especially daunting in the context of my profession: Pastors are supposed to be paradigms of perfection, to be endowed with the sort of faith that keeps them immune from something like mental illness."  Kathy Hurt offers a sermon on mental illness.  She stresses the importance of sharing your stories.  “I will keep telling and retelling stories of my personal struggles with depression and suicide, keeping alive the hope that one day any traces of stigma and shame associated with mental illness will vanish. We will all be so much stronger then.”  Rev Hurt also offers some helps when talking with someone with a mental illness.  Read the sermon here.

  • Be gentle with yourself. All of us are struggling and doing the best we can.
  • Be patient. Humans are incredibly complicated organisms, unpredictable even on our best days, and we will not always respond in the same way.
  • Be grateful. Many spiritual traditions urge cultivating a practice of gratitude, something as simple as finding three things each day, however small, to be thankful for. Gratitude can shift an entire world view toward greater trust, bit by bit.
  • Be vulnerable. We form our deepest connections with others not around our accomplishments or successes, but around our experiences of suffering. We bond when we share stories of those experiences with one another
  • Be kind. When we notice someone else, even for just a moment in a shared glance or holding open a door, we are lifted out of our own loneliness and a bit closer into the human community.
Visit the Book Section on Mental Health Ministries Website

BookshelfMany of the books lifted up in our e-Spotlights are included in the Books section on the Mental Health Ministries website.  While it is not possible to include all books addressing spirituality/faith and mental illness, we will continue to add book titles that we feature in our e-Spotlights. In most cases there is a link to purchasing these books through Amazon.  We encourage you to browse through these books to find ones that may be helpful in your situation.

Book – Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis

Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health DiagnosisAfter battling bipolar disorder and finding no spiritual support group for his own journey to wholeness, Pastor Brad Hoefs developed his own support group model and workbook. Fresh Hope combines teaching sections centered on basic tenets for recovery. These include accepting a diagnosis, restoring relationships, pushing past excuses and faulty thinking patterns, choosing hope, trusting others, understanding the role of medications and God's purposes for pain. The interactive workbook format allows the individual to respond to supporting Bible passages and recovery principles. Hoef's psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Egger, briefly contributes medical information regarding mood disorders in the Q&A sections at the end of each chapter. The book is available in paperback and as an e-book and is suitable for recovery support groups.

Available on Amazon.

Book – Finding Hope: Ways to See Life in a Brighter Light

Finding Hope: Ways to See Life ina Brighter LightThere is something mysterious about hope. You can be in dire straits and have a great deal of hope. You can have everything going your way and have little or no hope at all. As Jevne and Miller explain in this book, hope has a powerful effect upon your life. After explaining what hope is and is not, they describe how it works and offer twenty-two specific ideas about how to find, keep, and build hope in one's personal life. The book is designed to be not just about hope but an experience in hope itself. It contains many insightful quotations from the ages as well as black and white photography that is hopeful in effect.

Available on Amazon. Note: This item is only available from third-party sellers

Book – Toward a Theology of Psychological Disorder

Toward a Theology of Psychological DisorderHow do Christians in the twenty-first century understand psychological disorders? What does Scripture have to teach us about these conditions?  Marcia Webb examines attitudes about psychological disorder in the church today, and compares them to the scriptural testimony. She offers theological and psychological insights to help contemporary Christians integrate biblical perspectives with current scientific knowledge about mental illness.

Available on Amazon.

Sharing Your Story

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 has two parts: What We Are Doing and Your Ideas.  This 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? 

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.

Rev. Barbara Myers shares about the Sidewalk Talk Listening Post:

The Sidewalk Talk Listening Post

Listening PostLast spring, a friend of mine, Karolyn Stenlund, who is also a spiritual director and I, inspired by an effort we read about, decided to embark on a joint adventure of listening to people on the streets of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, one of city’s poorest neighborhoods.  We were able to obtain the sponsorship of the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco, and a small grant from the city to cover our expenses.  We joined an effort called “Sidewalk Talk” that has volunteers who set up chairs and "free listening" signs in various public spaces.  Sidewalk Talk’s mission is “to nurture human connection by teaching and practicing heart-centered listening in public spaces.” The goal is about de-stigmatizing mental health.
 
Today, Sidewalk Talk has 700 volunteers world-wide in 19 cities around the globe, with more being added all the time.  They have a website www.sidewalktalksf.com where people can sign up to be “listeners” and can be trained in an excellent on-line training. 

When I explained to one man that we weren’t selling anything or trying to convert anyone, he asked, “Then, why do you come?  What’s in it for you?”  I said, “I have the satisfaction of knowing I am helping to make the world a friendlier place.”  There is something sacred about people having authentic conversation about the important situations of their lives.  There is no small talk, no jockeying for relative position.  Just sharing from one heart to another.
 
Rev. Barbara F. Meyers
Fremont, California
www.mpuuc.org/mhm/

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Snippets from Susan

Planting Seeds of Hope in Rural Cambodia

Ten years ago, a friend of ours talked with her hair stylist about her village in Cambodia that she had fled in the 1970’s.  Nancy asked what the village might need.  Her hair stylist said they needed one bicycle for the village.  A shared bicycle would help take them to school, the temple, the clinic and the market.  When friends heard the story, they donated funds for more bicycles.  Over the next few years and trips to the village, the Cambodian Village Fund was founded providing school uniforms, English classes, a school and scholarships for girls to encourage them to continue their education.  Like the parable of the mustard seed, a simple conversation led to a mission that continues to grow and thrive.

My husband and I had the opportunity to be part of a 15-person team to visit Cambodia. In the village we spent time with the families and at the school.  My first career before becoming a minister was as a Kindergarten teacher.  I brought a large suitcase of toys and art supplies and organized activities to help our group interact with these delightful children.

Cambodia Pictures

Cambodia is a country that has suffered greatly from U.S. bombs dropped during the Vietnam War but especially from the genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979.  So many people were killed that much of the Cambodian population is under age 35.  The persons who survived the horrors of the “killing fields” mostly do not talk about their experiences.  Many survivors suffer from “Baksbat” which is translated as “broken courage.”  While some symptoms are similar to PTSD, Baksbat is a unique cultural response to trauma that includes avoidance and the inability to speak out.

Cambodia is primarily a Buddhist county. We had the opportunity to work with a wonderful monk who helps oversee the Cambodian Village Project.  We learned much about the Buddhist faith.  Some of the tenants of Buddhism are the acceptance of suffering, compassion for others, living in the present moment and a commitment to peace and a love of all people. 

One thing that surprised me was how happy the people were even though they lacked so much of what we take for granted.  The extended family lives together or nearby. They help and support each other.  We visited the family of one of the scholarship girls whose father lost a leg from a land mine and is unable to work in the rice fields.  The feeling of community and the acceptance of each person just as they are provides the villagers with a sense of belonging and connection.  Isn’t this something that we all long for?  I came away feeling that in many ways these wonderful people were “richer” than many of us in what really counts. 

Cambodia pictures

We visited several places where the older generation is teaching the lost Khmer arts such as music, dance, weaving, carving and pottery.  One of the places we visited had a room of girls learning enamel painting.  All the girls were deaf.  The room was silent as all the girls communicated in sign language.  They had their own sense of community.

Cambodia picture

Stan and I also had the opportunity to visit the many ancient sites in Cambodia.  We learned the rich Khmer history that incorporated early Hinduism and Buddhism in harmony depicted in the many beautiful temple carvings.  We saw the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Cambodia Pictures

I learned much about the Buddhist traditions and realize how much we have to learn from each other when we treat all people with love and respect.  We all experience difficult times or suffering in our lives.  Hopefully we can find a way to connect to other caring, accepting and compassionate people.  One of the monks who was very influential in negotiating peace in Cambodia and with the surrounding countries lived by the motto that “Peace is possible!”  This peace is also something to be nurtured deep in one’s heart.  Maha Ghosananda wrote:

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes Great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a peaceful Heart.
A Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family.
A Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
A Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.

May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.

Cambodia Picture

 

Susan

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