Category Archives: News

Articles from our newsletter, “EMIN News”

The National Day Of Prayer For Mental Illness Awareness Recovery And Understanding

The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Awareness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, October 4. This day of prayer was initiated by Angela Vickers of NAMI Florida and Gunnar Christiansen of NAMI California in 2004. It has had widespread support by individual congregations and National Faith Community Mental Illness Networks.

In seeking God’s guidance, we can recommit ourselves to replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and love in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.

You can download helpful resources at liturgies to use for the National Day of Prayer on the Home page of the Mental Health Ministries website. This resource is available in English and Spanish. Many faith communities have sponsored an interfaith candle lighting service using a liturgy written by Carole J. Wills that is included in this resource.

There is also a fact sheet, What You Need to Know About Mental Illness, including facts that involve our faith communities.

Reaching Out to Faith Communities

*from NAMI FAITHNET: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness

NAMI FAITHNET TRAINING MODULES.

Reaching Out to Congregations is a four-part training tool provided by NAMI FaithNet, an educational outreach to faith communities of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The goal of Reaching out to Congregations is to better equip NAMI members and leaders to build bridges with local faith groups. The content was written in response to common questions like: Why should we reach out to faith communities? How do we handle differing views of mental illness or stigmatizing remarks? How do I get started?

The long-range goal of NAMI FaithNet outreach is to promote supportive faith communities where awareness, welcome, inclusion, support, and spiritual care for individuals and families facing mental illness is provided.

Four Parts of Reaching out to Congregations:

  • Laying the Foundation provides basic information about NAMI FaithNet, its interfaith dialogue approach and religious diversity. This section also explains the value of outreach to congregations and the community impact of untreated mental illness.
  • Opening the Door explores the impact of mental illness on individuals and what basic spiritual care encompasses. Suggestions are offered for starting informal conversations with people of faith and building advocacy, awareness, and support within a congregation.
  • NAMI FaithNet: Sharing Your Story provides training for those who want to more effectively tell their story about mental illness and the role of NAMI and the faith community in their journey.
  • Looking Ahead & Following Up offers tips on the team approach and how to respond to stigmatizing remarks, differing beliefs, and other challenges unique to faith community outreach.

Reaching Out to Faith Communities is offered via PowerPoint and intended for self-study while viewing with the NOTES function. While the four sections are designed to be used consecutively and as a whole, they each can be studied independently. In addition, the material is also presented via a two-part webinar series. Support documents referenced in the curriculum are also included. It is available on the NAMI FaithNet site (www.nami.org/namifaithnet).

Interview with Barbara Crafton

An interview with the Rev. Barbara C. Crafton on her 2009 book Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet. (Published by Jossey-Bass, ISBN 97-0-470-37195-4)

EMIN: What prompted you to write Jesus Wept? Did an event or something specific prompt you?
Barbara: I have been a lifelong sufferer [of depression.] In thirty years of doing retreats, there has always been someone with depression who was seeking help. I have knowledge from a religious aspect and personal information about the illness.
Sharing both aspects has worked well, and I thought others would think so too. I was in a place with the Geranium Farm to ask readers to share their experiences of coping with depression. A large number of eloquent stories came in. I was delighted with the response.
EMIN: Please say something about facing the hard reality that having a mental illness is a long-term situation?
Barbara: It is difficult for us to come to understand that it [a mental illness] is chronic. We can control and manage it. Having a mental illness is part of life, an unfortunate part of life. We want a cure. Ordinarily, you don’t get a cure, but you do get help. We are blessed today to have something with which to manage it.
EMIN: What do you have to say to people who have depression, but want to get off their medication?
Barbara: I would say that the time is long past when any Christian needs to hesitate to seek professional help. It is no sin to have this disorder. It is not helpful to not do what you can do. It is your disease talking when you think you can’t do anything about it. It’s been a long time since thinking like that made any sense at all.
People think having a mental illness is shameful – nonsense! It is a source of major suffering. I’m on a bit of a crusade. I want people to serve God with everything they have. If they are bleeding inside, they can’t do that.
EMIN: Why do you think we feel shame when we have a mental illness?
Barbara: The Bible has a lot of ancient belief that illness is a result of sin. Fundamentalist see it as one’s own fault or we have no right to do something about it. We have chosen what we decide to believe from scripture. It is time to be discerning and careful about what we want scripture to do. It is not a recipe book. The ancient teaching about suffering being from sin has been thoroughly discredited, but it is easy for us to fall back into that.
EMIN: What are some tools our faith offers us when we face mental illness?
Barbara: We do have healing resources in scripture. We have reliance on God, We have hope in hopeless situations. We have our communities, a powerful sense of community for wholeness.
In prayer we have a resource and honesty; truth in prayer is powerful.
We have the teaching of resurrection from the jaws of death.
We have tools sufficient without leaning on those which are not.
EMIN: Do you have any suggestions for family members and friends of persons facing mental illness? What helps? What hurts?
Barbara: Recognize that the sufferer has a God too, and it’s not you. We can’t take responsibility for someone else’s journey, for their walk with God.
We have no duty to help them stay sick, but we can’t do it for them.
Part of depression is thinking that we don’t have any lines in our own play. Our power is limited, but we do have lines. We have to find courage to find and speak them. That will go a long way toward our own healing. We can get out of God’s way.
Call 911 if someone threatens suicide. If he does resist, it is not your fault. His death is his own. Depression is a Disease that kills.
EMIN: Since writing Jesus Wept, have you had any strange or negative reactions from people who weren’t aware of your illness?
Barbara: People have been surprised, maybe naïve, a little shocked. This plays into my hands. If they are shocked, I’ve got their attention. I can point out that they have never known me not on antidepressants. Then they can know that the drugs don’t make me a zombie. If a religious leader can be candid, it is very helpful. This is a Call within a call that I didn’t know I had.

Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director, and author. She is the founder and head of the Geranium Farm, www.geraniumfarm.org, an online institute for the promotion of spiritual growth, which publishes The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm, read by thousands of people worldwide.

News from Pathways to Promise

Pathways to Promise and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors have begun to implement a national training and educational initiative called National Training Initiative (NTI). This emerged from the National Mental Health Summit held in Belleville, IL, sponsored by Pathways to Promise in 2009. Pilot Projects in St. Louis, MO, and several communities in Washington State, supported by foundations and by state departments of mental and behavioral health, have just recently completed their first year of implementation.

An NTI site covers a city, county, or region. Guiding each local Training Site is a planning group made up of representatives from key and diverse stakeholders: faith groups, consumers and families, community mental health providers and advocates, pastoral counselors, parish nurses, and other community allies. The NTI planning group helps organize neighborhood clusters of congregations and other community partners, who participate in core NTI trainings on mental health and substance use, as well as other trainings identified in the annual curriculum of continuing education. The result is reduced stigma, increased knowledge, and the development of skills in promoting recovery.

The training resources developed for the St. Louis project are now available online at pathways2promise.org. They are available for individuals within a congregation or as train-the-trainer resources.

An NTI Advisory Task Force will seek national partners among faith groups, agencies, national organizations, state and county behavioral health programs, and foundations.

If you are interested in participating or wish to know more about this initiative, please contact:

Rev. Robert Dell, Chair

Douglas M. Ronsheim, LMFT, D.Min.

Pathways to Promise

American Association of Pastoral Counselors

815-786-6341

703-385-6967

bob.dell@comcast.net

doug@aapc.org

Blue Christmas at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

The December holidays are not all joy and light. For many, it is a hard time. Some loved one will be absent from the Christmas table. Our lives don’t live up to the idealistic Christmas scenes of hearth and home. We don’t look like figures in a Norman Rockwell painting. Some suffer from seasonal affective disorders. When it seems like the whole world is happily stringing decorations, we can feel sad and out of step with the festive emotions.

A Blue Christmas service can be a holy container to honor those emotions and losses. We hold our service in the evening, near the winter solstice, when the days are shortest and the nights are long. We use the lections for St. Thomas (Dec. 21). St. Thomas was the apostle who missed the resurrection appearances of Jesus on Easter. While the other disciples were rejoicing, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas’ mind was filled with the all-to-real images of his friend’s death on the cross. “Until I see…” something as real as that, “I will not believe,” Thomas said.

We start in a darkened, quiet church. We use the Order of Worship for the Evening, BCP p. 109, as a Liturgy of the Word, lighting candles at the altar and in the windows. The sermon tries to allow people to honor the difficult work of grief and disappointment in the midst of a festive season. During the Eucharist, we invite people to light vigil candles for remembered loved ones or other appropriate intentions. We have a place for laying on of hands with prayer.

The mood is contemplative — quiet, accepting, healing. We’ve found this gentle, dark space, held within the December bustle, is a treasured holy space for tender things. For some, it is a space to place deep loss so we can open more fully to the coming joy of Christmas.

Contributed by The Rev. Lowell Grisham, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas. lowell@stpaulsfay.org

Well Known Priest and Writer Shares Her Own Experience With Depression

Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet

The Rev. Barbara C. Crafton

Published by Jossey-Bass 2009

ISBN 978-0-470-37195-4

The Rev. Barbara C. Crafton has written an important book for EMIN News readers and all who have or love someone with debilitating depression.

The following synopsis comes from the dust jacket:

“Depression is the sapping of spiritual strength and joy, the graying of everything.” —From the Prologue

Drawing from her personal experiences and those of hundreds of others, Episcopal priest Barbara Cawthorne Crafton explores what it means for a person of faith to suffer from depression. Just as no two people are the same, the experience of depression is unique to every individual.

Depression’s mark on each soul can perplex or even annoy loved ones, friends, and family, while at the same time they want very much to help.

All too often religious people face unique challenges when depression sets in. Jesus Wept explains that faith can be enormously helpful and comforting or can seriously hinder the healing process.

Communities of faith and ill-advised teachings can leave sufferers feeling abandoned. They wonder, “Where are the joys and comforts of faith and the power of prayer? How can I trust God? My depression is a sign that I have disappointed God!”

Offering hope to those who suffer, Crafton shows how a life of faith can bring together unique resources for dealing with the dark night of the soul. The ancient practice of prayer, which has taken sorrow seriously for thousands of years, can be a powerful elixir for the spirit, Supportive religious teachings can offer a powerful hope for resurrection and healing. Faith can build a community that, at its best, enshrines love and welcome to the poor in spirit.

Jesus Wept is a valuable resource for those who are finding their way through the darkness of soul and spirit—or for those who care for them.

Barbara C. Crafton is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director and author. She is the founder and head of the Geranium Farm, www.geraniumfarm.org, an online institute for the promotion of spiritual growth which publishes The Almost-Daily-eMo from the Geranium Farm, read by thousands of people worldwide.

In a chapter titled “A Learning Experience,” Crafton writes:

“The pain is a memory now, but that thought can still produce a shudder. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.

“Or perhaps that frightful era just past wasn’t a demon at all. Perhaps it was a teaching tool, a means by which I was strengthened in wisdom about the very nature of the human self. Was it purposed to teach me about my many blessings by allowing me to experience their privation, in case I ever started taking them all for granted? In truth, I have been educated by having survived depression, by the memory of its dreadful emptiness. I do feel glad just to breathe the air without feeling its dead weight on my chest. I do have a more nuanced view of God than a simple equation of God’s presence with my own well-being, not that I had ever put much stock in that equation anyway. And it certainly has taught me what a blessing ‘normal’ is. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.” (pp. 16–17)


Note: The Rev. Barbara Crafton has consented to be interviewed by EMIN News about this new book. The article will be published in the Winter 2009 issue.

A Reader Tells Her Story

Greetings!

My name is Mary _____ and I am a parishioner at Christ Church in the small town of _____, New York.

I grew up as a Roman Catholic, but started attending Christ Church after a visit by the priest while I was a patient in the hospital. This was no “ordinary” visit; I was a patient in the locked psychiatric unit of the hospital; the unit that most people are too afraid to even speak of. Fr. Nick was definitely different from my “so called” friends; he was not afraid to give me a hug. He prayed over me and warmly invited me to “come to Christ church” and see if it would help me. There was no pressure to attend mass there, and there never has been. Since my second marriage, I had been searching for a church I felt “at home” in. All the parishioners at Christ Church were very welcoming, but they were also not aware of my mental disabilities.

I need to tell you why I was in the psychiatric unit of the hospital. It is hard for me to remember a time in my life when I did not struggle with my disabilities; major depression and Severe Anxiety Disorder – SAD. And, yes, I have, at the lowest points in my life attempted suicide; not just once but several times. I realize this is the main reason I can not work outside of my home. As soon as any of my employers discovered I had a mental illness, I was let go. There are also times when I feel too anxious to leave my home.

While other “normal” people could work and enjoy the outside world, I was held prisoner; not by iron bars or locked doors, but by severe anxiety, depression, and a broken heart. My life was controlled by my disabilities, as I have discovered, many are.

Years passed and I lived through my “highs and lows”. No, I am not bi-polar, that is another form of mental illness.

My mom died on September 16, 2008 from a courageous battle with colon cancer and I had stopped attending church, except for an occasional healing service. I was lonely without my mom, although she lived with her physical disability for three years, after being told by all doctors. she would only live for six months.

Well this year, I decided I needed to change my life. I made a commitment to God that I would attend mass every Sunday through Lent and maybe even attend the Bible study. I made a promise to God that he would be the #1 priority in my life and in everything I do. This I knew would be most difficult because of my panic attacks outside my home. I did attend mass on Ash Wednesday, and with a little bit of medication prescribed by my doctor and help from the Holy Spirit, I made it through. I had taken the first step toward my goal.

The next day, I felt drawn to know more about the Episcopal Church if I was going to worship there. I turned on my computer and not being real computer savvy, I whispered a little prayer to God to show me what I was searching for.

Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered The Episcopal Disability Network website: www.disability99.org. This is an organization that works for the inclusion of people with handicaps and disabilities into the life of the church and society. It was through this site that I discovered the Episcopal Mental Illness Network. It is my goal, that through my writing, I can share some of my personal struggles and blessings of living with my disabilities.

Some days I feel totally isolated and worthless as a person. I want to go and hide and keep to myself. Yet, inside, my soul is screaming for someone to come and know me and love me. The beautiful thing about this is Jesus knows me and he knows what it feels like inside me. Yes, there were times when I gave up too easily and sought the wrong way out by attempting to take my own life. PLEASE do not judge me if you have never been in such immeasurable pain.

Though I did not recognize them at the time, God was blessing me in many ways. He put people in my life to love and support me. I give thanks to God for my family and friends who are not afraid to be near me and hold my hand or wipe away a tear.

It is not easy to know and then to admit to yourself and others that I am “different.” Now I am willing to finally face reality and establish a way of life that includes daily prayer, reflection, and regular worship with my church family.

There is a stigma attached to mental illness by a society that is too ignorant to seek answers and try to find a cure. Some people are literally afraid of someone who suffers from mental illness. One of the greatest gifts God has given me through my depression is the fact that my four children have grown into loving, knowledgeable adults who are not intimidated by a person’s disability. They “see” the person, not the disability.

With all this knowledge I had discovered, I thought that NOW – surely I would “get better.” Days passed and I was attempting to establish the changes that would heal me. I attended Sunday mass – panic attacks and all. I spent time each day reading my Bible, and even attended weekly Bible study – and I was still depressed and anxious.

One morning I read the story of the crippled man who had lain beside the healing pool for 38 years because he had no one to help him in. I could relate to his hopelessness. Then, Jesus came to him and asked him, “Do you want to get well?”. I had heard this story many times, but this time something was different.

As I read Jesus’ question, I almost resented his question. I thought to myself, “What kind of question is that?” I put myself in this man’s place. I have seen a doctor almost every week for the last 10 years and now Jesus asks ME, “Do I want to get well?”. God waited for me to answer. Of course I want to get well-you don’t have to be God to see the obvious; or was it?

Jesus was calling me to come closer and see what it was he saw in my life. For a minute, put yourselves in my shoes. Much of my life has been governed by my depression and anxiety. All this time I only wanted one thing; to be healed. So what was I afraid of ? When had I begun to lose hope? First a year went by; then two. There was no miracle for me. What about the next five years, ten years, and increasing depression and anxiety? How long could I continue to hope and not be discouraged? Was God testing my faith? Didn’t he see my tears that fell through the lonely days and sleepless nights?

Slowly and unknowingly, I resigned myself to a life of fear, resentment, and anger. I abandoned all desire to get well. That’s when Jesus took my hand and we stepped into the “secret place” of his own heart. When he asked me again, “What did I want?”, Jesus infused into MY heart- HIS DESIRE to be made whole.

I had abandoned my desire to be made whole and replaced it with knowledge and facts about my disabilities as the key to my life. I was sure God was too busy for ME. I didn’t doubt God’s healing power – for others, but I doubted his love and care for me. Now Jesus had come into my life and was appealing to MY desire – the Creator of the universe was speaking to MY heart and offering me a new life in Him!

Is that what you are longing for? Jesus disperses desire, he awakens it within your heart. All my knowledge with no desire was fruitless. I knew something had gone really wrong in my heart. My life was not getting better. I had betrayed my desire and replaced it with knowledge. I’m not saying knowledge is wrong; I’m saying knowledge without desire can lead to depression, resentment, and hopelessness.

This Lenten Season I reflected on Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem. Did I walk beside him or leave him to walk the road alone? Was it ME that shouted “Hosanna” or did I cry, “Crucify Him?”. Did I, like Peter deny even knowing Jesus? This Easter, I peered into the tomb where Jesus had been lain, and found it dark and empty; like my life was before God called to me. Only God knows why I heard him the day I read about the crippled man. I said nothing to my family or friends. I didn’t know what to say or do.

Since I talked with God, my life is no longer under the control of darkness. It is slowly, but surely, showing signs of the healing and life giving presence of God’s light and love. I have placed my future in his hands. Courage, though still a bit cautious, now appears where fear and anxiety once dominated. I am ready to give my life to God. I desire to be a living testament to the victory Jesus has won in my soul. I yearn to be identified with my Savior, and if that requires being misunderstood, mocked, or even persecuted, I am willing.

How long has it been since you thanked God for the gift of His Son? What does your heart long for? Yes, our hearts DO matter to God. Take care of your heart. Do it so you may love better for the sake of those who need you – and they DO need you. I’ve been there and back. Yes there are still days I struggle with my illnesses. Now, when I feel like it’s too hard to go on, I am refreshed by submitting my burdens to Jesus to help me carry them. Finally, God has restored the desire in my heart, through His mercy and love.

There is healing for every brokenness. He will make you whole. Jesus can and wants to heal your heart and soul. All you have to do is ask – and BELIEVE!

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Galatians 2:20

CareForTheTroops Offers Resources to Assist Returning Troops and Their Families

A thoughtful discussion among a group of Episcopalians has developed into a program for congregations, clergy and individuals to help military families and troops returning from war areas. CareForTheTroops is a not-for-profit interfaith effort designed to address the spiritual and psychological needs of military families while working with congregations to make them more welcoming and understanding of the issues they face. The comprehensive website, www.CareForTheTroops.org, provides tools, resources and links aimed to equip congregations to reach out and support the military and/or their family members.

In the planning stages for 15 months, CareForTheTroops was created by clergy and laity of the Diocese of Atlanta. “The idea started with the Rev. Robert Certain, an Episcopal priest and ex-POW, and Billy Harrison, a vestry member and former Air Force officer, at St. Peter and St. Paul in Marietta, Georgia. I joined shortly thereafter,” recalls Peter McCall, currently the Executive Director. “It’s meant to be an interfaith effort to help all who have mental health needs associated with the current and previous wars. Their primary target audiences are not only the military member and their immediate family, but also the entire extended family system, congregation and community leaders, and civilian mental health professionals to help them better understand the military culture and trauma, and thus be better equipped to help those in need.”

He added, “We’re not pro-war, we’re not anti-war. We want to help the troops and their families by starting a military ministry of awareness and acceptance.”

According to the website, goals for the program are:

  • To work to improve the ability of the civilian mental health infrastructure in the State of Georgia, then nationally, to work with military family members
  • To facilitate connecting military families to providers of spiritual and psychological services familiar with the military culture and trauma
  • To focus on addressing combat stress recovery as well as other spiritual and mental health related problems impacting the marriages and families of military veterans
  • To educate and train clinicians, congregations and community leaders, extended family, and civilian groups about the military culture and trauma associated with military deployments in order to better assess and treat mental health symptoms, and provide more effective referrals and care and provide opportunities for additional trauma treatment training to clinicians
  • To operate in an interfaith, non-political manner, focusing on the humanitarian interest that benefits the veterans and their extended family members

CareForTheTroops has attracted the attention and support of Bishop Suffragan George Packard of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Federal Ministries as well as Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta, who wrote to his diocese on May 11, 2009:

I am pleased to announce a new ministry initiated by the rector and people of St. Peter and St. Paul in Marietta.

On May 1, CareForTheTroops was launched as a 501(c)(3) charity to benefit military members, veterans, and their families. They are developing a coalition of faith groups, civic leaders, the Georgia Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and clinicians to specialize in treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder as a network of civilian groups to fill the gaps where the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs leave off.

CareForTheTroops provides an excellent model for others to use in creating a meaningful, long-term ministry to our men and women who have borne the burden of battle.