Mental Illness Awareness Week
October 6 thru 12, 2013
October 6 thru 12, 2013
“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: email@example.com.
J. Glen White
Faith Groups Pledge to Raise Awareness
On June 3, at the National Conference on Mental Health, President Barak Obama applauded the dozens of commitments made by organizations representing media, educators, health care providers, faith communities, and foundations to increase understanding and awareness of mental health.
The National Conference on Mental Health was designed to increase understanding and awareness of mental health. As part of this effort, the Administration launched mentalhealth.gov, a new, consumer-friendly website with clear and concise tools to help with the basics of mental health, the signs of mental illness, how to talk about mental health, and how to get help. The website also includes a series of videos featuring celebrities and ordinary Americans whose lives have been touched by mental illness.
Recognizing that the government cannot do this alone, the Administration applauded commitments from private sector and non-profit organizations in five key areas. One of the areas included “launching new conversations in our houses of worship and other faith-based institutions to help people recognize mental health problems and access the treatment they need.”
Faith groups from across the country have committed to launch new conversations on mental health by taking steps such as:
Nearly thirty denominations and faith groups pledged to take action in their communities as part of the national dialogue. Episcopal Health Ministries and Pathways to Promise (which has Episcopal representation) were among the many groups recognized in a White House press release.
Recordings Available On-Line
The theme of this year’s Widening the Welcome conference was “God’s Vision: The Great Dinner is Open for All.” If you would like to hear any of the presentations, go to www.wideningthewelcome.com and click on “Resources.”
Widening the Welcome is an annual conference of the United Churches of Christ ministry for people with mental illness or disability.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of the efforts of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness.
MIAW coincides with the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding (Oct. 8) and National Depression Screening Day (Oct. 10.)
For more information and materials to promote Mental Illness Awareness Week, go to www.nami.org and click on the link for the week. Posters, tool kits, and other useful downloads are available.
Save the Date: January 15, 2014
Hosted by Pathways to Promise and other co-sponsors
Panelists throughout the day will represent:
Location:Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
You will come away with resources and contact people.
Minimal cost to cover food.
Scholarships will be available.
For more information contact: Robert Skrocki, Pathways to Promise, firstname.lastname@example.org
EMIN News readers might want to explore the wealth of information available on the website of the National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM) at www.episcopalhealthministries.org.
According to the website, NEHM’s vision is “that every Episcopal congregation becomes a vibrant, caring place of health and wholeness.” Its mission is “to promote health ministry in Episcopal congregations, assisting them to reclaim the Gospel imperative of health and wholeness.”
The NEHM serves by educating leaders for Episcopal health ministry and parish nursing; supporting those engaged in health ministry in Episcopal congregations through membership opportunities; providing resources to local congregations, dioceses, and provinces; and collaborating with other faith communities, institutions, and health organizations.
The NEHM CEO, Matthew Ellis, gave us a chance to blog about EMIN and mental illness issues in May for Mental Health Month. We look forward to other opportunities to partner with NEHM.
On behalf of his parish, The Rev. Scott Lee, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Weathersfield, Connecticut, received the Phyllis Redfield Award in July, 2013, from Common Ground, the Social Rehabilitation Club of InterCommunity, Inc. According to the Wethersfield Courant, Fr. Scott is a five-year member of the InterCommunity Board of Directors and has actively supported the social club and opened the doors of the parish to welcome the group for its coffeehouse social gatherings—all with the full support of the Trinity Vestry and congregation. The award is named in honor of Phyllis Redfield who served InterCommunity for more than 30 years, first as a volunteer and later as a member of the organization’s staff.
“The award reflects the sincere appreciation of the club’s members and comes directly from them,” said Kimberly Beauregard, InterCommunity president and CEO. “It is awarded annually to someone who has consistently shown support of this important social group.”
“Individuals with mental health issues face challenges on a daily basis,” said Paul Acker, Common Ground coordinator, “and valuable assistance comes most especially through interaction with community. Fr. Scott and Trinity Parish have provided a community in which club members can interact and hone their social skills in a comfortable and welcoming environment. As this award recognizes outstanding contributions to the club, Fr. Scott and Trinity Parish are deserving of this recognition.”
“This award is truly for all of Trinity Parish who support and enable our ministry with InterCommunity,” said Fr. Scott. “We are very pleased to be able to share our building with them from time to time and to provide the opportunity for community service for Common Ground’s members. They have my great admiration for the courage and strength with which they face life’s challenges.”
For more information about InterCommunity: http://www.intercommunityct.org/
Trinity Episcopal Church serves the faith community of Wethersfield and surrounding towns by offering open and welcoming religious and social services for the purpose of serving all people who seek friendship in an embracing community. More about Trinity at www.trinityepiscopalweth.org.
Editor’s note: Arkansas readers will recognize The Rev. Scott Lee as a priest who served the diocese of Arkansas before being called to Wethersfield.