Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Winter 2020

The Gifts of Winter


Winter LandscapeThe winter season offers many gifts if we will still our souls and listen in the quiet. Nature itself is asking us all to slow down. Even animals know this, as they go into hibernation for the winter. Winter is a time of rest after the busyness of the holiday season. The winter season offers the gift of silence and quiet.  It is a season of introspection.  It is also a season of waiting and hope.

Seasons of winter, barrenness and darkness can happen at any time for those of us living with a mental illness or times of grief or loss. It is during these seasons that we need to be reminded that our darkness can be a time of cultivating new growth within that will lead to a spring of unexpected treasures. 

The prophet Isaiah says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:3, NKJV)

Articles

Article – Giving Mental Awareness the Right Place in the Church

Giving Mental Awareness the Right Place in the ChurchRev. Alan R. Rudnick writes in The Christian Citizen, “Churches are not often equipped as professional mental health centers, but we can do some simple things to create a hospitable culture for those in anguish. Our churches need to be structured and conditioned in such a way to respond with grace, compassion, and love to those who are struggling. We must work to end the stigmas attached to the needs of mental health. Church leaders and pastors must preach the gospel of good mental health as well as good spiritual health. Churches need to hold seminars, small groups, and public forums that share stories, resources, and opportunities for those in economic, personal, or emotional turmoil. Churches and para-church organizations can partner with local mental health professionals, hospitals, counselors, and help groups to coordinate programs that can be hosted at churches.”

Article – Breaking the Silence of Mental Illness

Breaking the Silence of Mental IllnessRev. Dr. Greg Johnson writes in the Christian Citizen the church that claims to be following Jesus is walking in darkness when the light is not shined on mental illness, especially when persons living with a mental illness do not feel welcomed to talk about their illness.

Article – Mindful of Grace: Viewing Mental Illness Through the Eyes of Faith

Matthew S. Stanford writes in the Church Health Reader, ”Mental illness has not always been treated as a medical problem. Not too long ago many people perceived the abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with these disorders as signs of personal weakness and something to be ashamed of. Regrettably, this is still a common misperception in the church today and has resulted in the stigmatization and alienation of thousands who desperately need the spiritual support that the body of Christ can provide. Christians are often surprised to learn that individuals experiencing psychological distress, both believers and nonbelievers, are more likely to seek help from a member of the clergy or ministry staff before any other professional group.”

Article – Mental Illness: How Can Congregations Respond?

Marja Bergen writes in the Church Health Reader, “There are some practical things you can do to help a friend with depression. They’re similar to what you would do to help physically ill people. You would ask them how their day is going. You might bring them a casserole. You might give them a call once in a while, telling them you’re thinking of them and praying for them. We who live with mental illness need the same things. We might need a ride to the doctor or help shopping for groceries. A reminder of scripture could help, perhaps a verse that might have helped you during trials. Going for a walk with us would be therapeutic. A hug now and then could do wonders.”

Article – 4 Ways Churches Can Respond to Mental Illness

Antony Sheeham writes in the Church Health Reader, connecting spirituality to issues of mental illness and recovery will not look the same in every congregation, but some broad categories will help both clergy and laypeople consider how to respond to the need for help in incorporating spirituality with less fear of these conditions. Congregations can make a difference by exploring four key areas. These include Recognition, Referral, Recovery and Renewal.

Article – Take Every Thought Captive: Watchfulness for Healthy Stress Management

Philip G. Monroe writes in the Church Health Reader, mindfulness has clear positive health benefits by reducing our stress responses to the chaos in our lives. Mindful individuals appear to have greater amounts of patience, are able to avoid impulsive responses to stress, process rather than react to emotions, and have greater capacities to be curious and loving.

Article – HEALING

HEALING articleMegan Snell writes in the UCC Mental Health Network, “For most people living with mental illness, healing doesn’t look like an encounter with a televangelist or Jesus driving demons into swine. Healing looks more like self-care, community care, medications, therapy, saying no, making it to appointments, sleeping well, engaging in community, leaning out, prayer, support groups, grounding exercises, celebrating every victory, and radical acceptance. And, it’s a journey not just for a day, but often for a lifetime.”

Article – Friendship and People with Mental Illness

Friendship and People With Mental IllnessThis article from Faith & Leadership (Duke University) shares how churches are the front line of encountering suffering in large portions of our culture and have the opportunity and responsibility to minister to people with mental illness, say two psychiatrists trained in theology. Life for people with serious mental illness can be isolating, but it does not have to be that way, say psychiatrists Warren Kinghorn and Abraham Nussbaum. Instead, churches can do much to welcome, be with and support those with mental illness. Learning how to be friends with people with mental illness is really about learning how to be friends with people generally, Kinghorn said.

Article – Powerful Tools for Everyday Healing

Powerful Tools for Everyday HealingNicole Peradotto shares in bpHope that practicing different variations of spirituality can help you on your path to recovery—connecting mind, body and spirit. Indeed, spirituality is considered such a wellspring of serenity for people who have mental health disorders that it’s often referred to as “the missing link” in treatment.

“It gives people a hope that medicine and science can’t give,” contends Harold G. Koenig, MD, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center. “It gives them hope that there’s a plan—a good plan—and that good things can result in their life even if they’re in a lot of pain.” In his book Faith and Mental Health, Dr. Koenig examined more than 850 studies measuring the relationship between spirituality and mental health. He found ample evidence that individuals who have mental health disorders often turn to religious beliefs or a faith community for support, and that such practices are typically associated with a more optimistic outlook and an improved quality of life.

Article – The Importance of Rituals

The Importance of RitualsMegan Snell writes in the UCC Mental Health Network, ”I appreciate that the rituals around death that we provide in our congregations can be echoed in rituals for people who have experienced trauma or a marked psycho-spiritual shift from one part of their life to the next. What might it look like to develop faith-filled, impactful rituals for our congregation to experience after times of trauma or experiences of mental distress? How might thoughtful rituals be a part of accompanying people living with mental health conditions?”

Article – A Spiritual Path to Healing and Helping

A Spiritual Path to Healing and HopeKarl Shallowhorn writes in bpHope, “Finding and staying on the road to recovery is not easy. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help—from peers, doctors, and God.

Article – Stepping into the Light: Christians & Mental Illness

Lily Dunn shares in Red Letter Christians about her experience with hiding her mental illness. “Christians are not immune to mental illness any more than they are immune to cancer or to car accidents. People with mental illness can look entirely “normal” on the outside. They can be successful and responsible. They can maintain deep relationships and smile often. All the while, they can be waging a war you know nothing about. Members of our faith communities are suffering in silence because we have, in our own ignorance, made them feel isolated or given them the sense that their struggles are primarily a spiritual failing.”

Article – Arrows of Fire

Arrows of FireWe know that there has been a dramatic increase in suicide among first responders. Jonathan E. Hickory is a police officer who has developed a course entitled "Resilience, Mental Wellness, and Suicide Awareness for Police." He works as a chaplain in helping fellow officers face the challenges of working in law enforcement. The article, Arrows of Fire, is based on Ephesians 6:16. “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Hickory shares some of the “arrows of fire” that police officers face.

What are these “fiery arrows” or darts of the enemy?  It sounds so…ancient warfare. How does it apply to real life?  Here are a few arrows of fire that the enemy uses to target police officers and all first responders:

  • “You are weak for being traumatized by all that you see.”
  • “You are the only one who is weak.”   
  • “Keep it inside…others will make fun of you and talk about you behind your back if you ask for help.”
  • “Drinking will make you feel better.  That will make your pain go away.”


Hickory has also written a book, A police officer's battle with alcoholism, depression, and devastating loss; and the true story of how God changed his life forever. He shares how his Christian faith changed his life.

Article – Isolation, Mental Illness and a Thriving Community

Isolation, Mental Illness and a Thriving CommunityThis article by Katie Boone from Faith & Leadership (Duke University) shares how a thriving community of faith lives gently with those suffering with mental illness.

Books

Book – Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality: Making Space for God

Mindfulness and Christian SpiritualityThe spiritual practice of mindfulness has continued to gain popularity throughout the years. But what exactly does this practice offer to Christians? In Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality, Tim Stead explores how practicing mindfulness can help Christians better live out their faith. Stead explains what mindfulness is and what is beneficial about it. He also reflects on how it can impact what and how we believe and seeks to find how mindfulness enables our Christian faith to work for us. Mindfulness practices that are designed to help readers make space for God in their everyday lives are included.

Book – Military Moral Injury and Spiritual Care

How do you care for veterans suffering from the moral trauma of war?

Military Moral Injury and Spiritual CareMilitary Moral Injury and Spiritual Care describes lifelong wounds of conscience afflicting military personnel who make life-and-death choices under duress or witness actions that later haunt them. With the suicide rate for veterans reaching 22 deaths per day, religious leaders, faith communities, and professional caregivers need resources and strategies for understanding and responding to the challenging ways military moral injury plagues veterans and their families.

In this collection of essays written by noted scholars and practitioners from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim perspectives, faith leaders and caregivers gain a depth of understanding and practical guidance for effective care with veterans and their families affected by combat moral trauma. Chapters provide spiritual care practices for supporting veterans, evidenced-based clinical strategies, and scholarly resources to guide responses to veterans’ experiences of loss and grief and strategies for effective interventions with veterans and their families. Military Moral Injury and Spiritual Care is a hopeful and practical resource for leaders in faith communities and chaplaincy settings. 

Book – Coming Home: Ministry That Matters with Veterans and Military Families

Coming home from military service is a process of reconnection and reintegration that is best engaged within a compassionate community. Zachary Moon, a commissioned military chaplain, has seen the unique challenges for those adjusting to post-war life. In Coming Home: Ministry That Matters with Veterans and Military Families, he prepares congregations to mobilize a receptive and restorative ministry with veterans and their families. Discussion questions and other resources included will help support small-group dialogue and community building.

Book – Survivor Care: What Religious Professionals Need to Know about Healing Trauma

Survivor Care: What Religious Professionals Need to Know About Helaing TraumaDr. Christy Sim works diligently to serve the needs of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. On any given Sunday morning, a pastor can look over the 100 members of the congregation and see 25 women and 14 men who have been crippled by domestic violence and trauma--no matter the race or socio-economic group. The church is more than a hospital for sinners, it is also an emergency room for those who have been sinned against. But emergency rooms are not the place for long-term care. The goal of care is not merely to help victims survive but move on to healing and wholeness.

Available on Amazon

Other Resources

Video – Helping Those Suffering from Mental Illness from Focus on the Family

Dr. Matthew Stanford offers a compassionate look at mental illness, which affects one in five teens and adults in the United States. He discusses the need for overcoming the stigma of reaching out for help and encourages the church community to offer hope and healing for families with loved ones suffering with mental health issues.

Behold Project: A Collection of Blogs for Catholics with Mental Illness

“We are a growing group of Catholics with mental illness that have come together to create a community. We will be sharing stories, blogs, testimonies, articles, art, poetry, humor, and anything else that can bring inspiration to others. This community was founded on the premise that even in the midst of mental illness, God is always there to offer hope and peace. Although this is mainly a Catholic site all are welcome here to share and express their opinions. www.thebeholdproject.com

Anabaptist Disabilities Network Newsletter on Disabilities and Trauma

The Anabaptist Disabilities Network’s November, 2019, newsletter focused on trauma and disability. There are a number of articles and resources that address this important issue. Links have been included for two of the articles and the entire newsletter can be viewed here.

Considering the Intersections of Trauma and Disability

Considering the Intersections of Trauma and DisabilityWhen considering people with disabilities in our congregations, attending to the needs of trauma survivors is often not a first priority. However, many people with disabilities have also experienced trauma. In fact, more than half of the general population (both disabled and non-disabled people) have experienced at least one traumatic event.  Unfortunately, people with disabilities experience trauma at even higher rates.

​Traumatic experiences consist in single or multiple events involving the threat or reality of death, serious injury, or compromised physical integrity of oneself or others. These traumatic experiences are marked by helplessness, horror, or fear.  Examples of trauma include childhood abuse, military trauma, domestic violence, accidents, natural disasters, and bullying.

Trauma survivors, including many of us reading this article, fill our ministry contexts as pastors, leaders, and lay people. As our congregations focus on amplifying the witness and leadership of people with disabilities, as well as improving accessibility, attending to the realities of co-existing trauma and disability is critical. Our congregations can serve as places that acknowledge the depths of despair that can come from trauma’s threat to our integrity as whole people. As congregations, we can cultivate and invite people into a community where our pain is not hidden or shamed. Instead, our congregations can offer the promise of accompaniment and sustained life together, even in the face of trauma. 

View more here.

Trauma-Informed Care for Congregations

Staci Williams writes on the Anabaptist Disabilities Network, “Most of us have heard the term trauma and recognize that soldiers who have served in combat, victims of mass shootings, and those who have been assaulted have been traumatized by their experiences. But trauma isn’t limited to just those experiences. According to The American Psychological Association, trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.1  As I’ve learned through my own therapy for PTSD, all of us have experienced some level of trauma in our lives. Some much more than others. And whether people talk about the trauma they’ve experienced (which is extremely difficult to do), the memory of the trauma does affect their behavior and perceptions of the world moving forward.”  

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If you wish to be added to receive our e-Spotlight newsletter, email Susan with your full name and email at sgschroed@cox.net.  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

Person with arms outstretched on a hill from a distance

 

Susan

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