Author Archives: Episcopal Mental Illness Network

Resolution 1991-D088: Encourage Understanding of Mental Illness and Respond to the Needs of the Mentally Ill

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That members of the Episcopal Church are encouraged to become knowledgeable about mental illness in order to reduce stigma and stereotypes which are prevalent within the Church body and the Community-at-large; and be it further

Resolved, That the Episcopal Church and all its units and organizations, be encouraged to reach out, welcome, include and support persons with a mental illness, particularly those who have a prolonged, serious mental illness, and the families of those persons, and recognize the abilities and celebrate the gifts of those who have a mental illness; and be it further

Resolved, That the church encourage the development of specific programs to equip the clergy and laity for ministry to the mentally ill and their families and that clergy and lay ministers seek out training and opportunities to minister to the spiritual needs of those who are affected by a mental illness; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses and congregations work with existing agencies and organizations to assist with and initiate programs, such as support groups, drop-in centers, housing and employment opportunities, which lead to an improved quality of life for people who have a mental illness, with specific attention to those who have become homeless; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses, congregations and individual parishioners become advocates for public policy and adequate funding to provide comprehensive community-based services, hospital care and research into the causes and treatment of mental illness; and be it further

Resolved, That dioceses, congregations and individuals utilize the resources and support services offered by the Episcopal Mental Illness Network (EMIN) of the Presiding Bishop’s Task Force on Accessibility.

General Convention, Journal of the 70th General Convention of…The Episcopal Church, Phoenix, 1991 (New York: General Convention, 1992), p. 822. Final text and legislative history may be accessed online through the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

Episcopal Mental Illness Network

September 7, 2014

Suicide Prevention Week

September 7–13, 2014

Like Watching a Dancing Flame: A Mother’s Reflection on Suicide

by The Rev. Bean Murray

The recent tragic high profile death of the beloved celebrity Robin Williams has had our whole nation thinking about the issue of suicide and what, if anything, our society can do about addressing the problem. My own son Chris died by suicide in 2001, and as a survivor, I know I feel each new suicide with a profound sorrow and a sense of regret for each life ended too soon.

Robin Williams’ death was particularly painful for me not only because I had delighted in his outlandish behavior and acting skill for decades, but because of a unique connection to Chris. Chris had bipolar disorder, and for people who have never witnessed someone’s mind in a manic state, I have often explained that Chris was behaving like Robin Williams on speed – thoughts and word connections and jokes and plays on words came cascading from Chris with incredible rapidity. Like Robin Williams, it was hard to keep up with his train of thought, but when you did catch up, you realized how brilliant and funny it was, and in Chris’ case how heart wrenching it was to witness a loved one in such a state. The MSNBC news commentator Chris Hayes described observing Williams’ behavior as “like watching a dancing flame.” As my son Chris said about himself, in the midst of an episode he was “Chris squared.”

Chris’ death was the impetus for my ministry in EMIN, but for a number of years I shied away from suicide prevention work. What did I have to offer there? After all, in spite of everything, I had been a total failure in saving my own child’s life.

My daughter Cara has turned her grief to a positive direction and has brought me along with her. She, her husband Heath, and other friends who have experienced the suicide of family and friends have formed a chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in Nashville, Tennessee, and their annual “Out of the Darkness” walk will take place on September 13. This will be their fifth annual walk. Thus far, their chapter has raised over $100,000 for local prevention programs and support for the national foundation.

Cara’s ministry to me has been to draw me in by asking me to give the invocation before each walk begins. Again this year, I will pray, standing before hundreds of walkers whose pain I share, wearing my beads that symbolize that my child died from suicide, and once again, Heath, Cara, my husband Paul, and I will stand there with our arm’s around each other and shed tears as we release our balloons carrying symbolic messages to Chris. Then, the walk will begin in quiet respect for those who have died and with renewed hope that, in some small way, we can help to prevent future acts of suicide and that we can help keep others from ever knowing our pain.

“Out of the Darkness” walks take place all over the country and AFSP chapters work throughout the year to bring suicide into the light of research and understanding. You can find your local chapter and the walk closest to you at www.afsp.org.

You can also help by sharing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Resources and Materials

The Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, coordinator of Mental Health Ministries (MHM), has added new information on spirituality/faith and suicide to the resource section of the MHM website (www.mentalhealthministries.net.) You will find a lot of practical materials that you can share with your congregations. Here are some of them:

  • “How Faith Communities Can Provide Hope and Promote Healing” is a downloadable brochure also available in Spanish.
  • “The Role of Faith Leaders in Suicide Prevention: A Guidebook for Faith Leaders” can be downloaded at the Mental Health Ministries site as a PDF file.

Episcopal Mental Illness Network

September 4, 2013

Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 6 thru 12, 2013

A Lenten Practice for All Seasons

From a member of St. Michael’s, Little Rock

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Many of us use the period during Lent to give something of ourselves to others. After all, every one of us is blessed with our own set of gifts and we answer our calling when we share those gifts with others. This year when Lent arrived, I didn’t come up with a specific commitment at first. Then it occurred to me during one Sunday morning service what I might be able to give of myself. In my career as a psychologist (which I consider one of my key gifts), I’ve pursued a variety of areas of practice. I’m more like a “jack of all trades and a master of none” than anything else, but I spent a number of years working with families and kids, so that was a particular area of interest for me. During the past year, I had put together a few presentations with a fellow member of our congregation on mental health, targeting family issues in particular. So as I thought about what to do that might be helpful to some of the members of our congregation here, I decided to try to share some of my knowledge in that area.

How to share what I knew was not without potential problems. While I wished to be helpful, I already practice locally in a Veterans’ medical center, which provides me with professional liability insurance coverage for my work there. It does not, however, cover any professional services I might provide on my own outside of that setting. Nor did I really want to engage in a separate private practice on the side. For those of you who aren’t healthcare professionals, you may not realize that practitioners must be acutely aware of the potential for personally damaging lawsuits for malpractice, which can arise from even the most seemingly benign advice given to others. Thus, mental health providers have to be extremely cautious about offering direct services or advice to others unless it is part of their job or practice for which they have insurance coverage.

I finally hit on what seemed a reasonable solution. In a church newsletter, I offered to field questions and suggestions from members of our congregation about broad issues of interest to them. I would then write a column on that general topic, offering information and resources that hopefully would be of help to a variety of individuals but might also be helpful to the person who had a specific concern. I would include local resources for follow up if anyone wished to pursue professional services, as well as general information for self-help.

To start off the project, I wrote a brief column in our church newsletter inviting anyone to email questions to me or to express an interest in learning more about issues related to family, kids, or other broader topics. With the help of the local priests and staff, we set up an email account specifically for me and a section in our web pages where these articles could be shared with all. My promise to those contacting me was to provide either a column on the topic to be published in our newsletter or on the website, or to send some resources and information directly to those inquiring. In my career, I’ve accumulated a lot of handouts and reference information on many topics in my field that I can share, so my hope was that I could use existing materials I already had on hand to help fulfill my part of the bargain and simply be able to augment these resources with the occasional column. I also specifically made it clear that what I would be doing was not “treatment” or advice for particular individuals or situations, but rather an attempt to provide information and resources (such as handouts, websites, books, etc) related to their general area of interest to use as they saw fit.

So far, I’ve not been swamped with requests, but it has been enough to keep me occupied. Other congregations may find this model to be helpful, as most will have some healthcare professionals among their members. They may find this a palatable means for sharing their own gifts and knowledge in an appropriate and safe way, while offering a potentially helpful service for others in the congregation. It might even be helpful to create a health committee of several folks with such backgrounds and interests, so that not just one person has the burden of helping with all requests. I’d also suggest considering inclusion of persons who have a lived experience of dealing with their own mental health challenges. These individuals can offer insights into how others might make progress on their own road to recovery. Remember, we all have gifts. Not all of them come with a diploma or legal certificate to officially sanction a person’s abilities, but they may be helpful nevertheless.

If anyone is interested in pursuing this idea and would like to contact me for further information or to hear more about this project, you may email me at: resources@stmichaels-church.net.

J. Glen White