Outreach to faith communities through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention urge all congregations of the Episcopal Church to seek out and commend local members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and other mental health support groups for their valiant struggle of many years to support and educate the general public, that many mental illnesses are brain disorders that may be treatable with new medications and other forms of treatment; and be it further
Resolved, That congregations be encouraged to read, study, and implement relevant portions of Resolution D088, entitled “Encourage Understanding of Mental Illness and Respond to the Needs of the Mentally Ill” (see explanation) adopted by the 1991 General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That congregations offer their facilities to local members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and other mental health support groups, for the purpose of educating and supporting family members of the mentally ill.
General Convention, Journal of the 73rd General Convention of…The Episcopal Church, Denver, 2000 (New York: General Convention, 2001), p. 610. Final text and legislative history may be accessed online through the Archives of the Episcopal Church.
Mental Illness Awareness Week
October 6 thru 12, 2013
Lane Perdue is in the deacon formation program in the Diocese of Phoenix in Arizona. Her ministry focuses on serious mental illness. Her activities form a great example of the things one person can do to bring awareness to the issue. She is connecting with NAMI Phoenix, making presentations, and expanding the awareness of people in her Diocese. Here are some of the things she is doing which may inspire “EMIN News” readers to make a difference wherever they are.
- Through her connection with NAMI Phoenix, Lane was made NAMI FaithNet coordinator.
- She has been giving the FaithNet “Bridges of Hope” presentation in various churches in the Phoenix area. About this she says “this is very inspiring to have people connect with the good news that is beginning to be possible for people with Serious mental illness.”
- She has also been invited to give presentations in northern rural Arizona.
- NAMI FaithNet has sponsored two “Coffee with the Clergy” events inviting members of the clergy from a number of denominations to come together to learn about mental illness and faith communities.
- Through her NAMI connection, Lane has taught several 12-week Family to Family courses and is facilitating a NAMI family support group.
- She participated in an “In Our Own Voice” gathering at the cathedral which gave persons with mental illness an opportunity to share their own perspectives.
This year, as she did in 2011, Lane plans to present a forum at Trinity Cathedral for Mental Illness Awareness week, the 1st week of October. For the second year, she will have a mental illness awareness table at the annual Diocesan convention. She is going to send Information on Mental Health Awareness week to the diocesan office and encourage publicity to Arizona congregations.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since 1990, mental health advocates across the country have joined together during the first full week of October in sponsoring many kinds of activities.
This year, the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012.
MIAW has become a NAMI tradition. It presents an opportunity to all NAMI state organizations and affiliates across the country to work together in communities to achieve the NAMI mission through outreach, education, and advocacy.
The MIAW Idea Book (MIAW site) suggests activities that can be incorporated into planning for the fall. Stickers, posters, and a web banner to use on websites or in documents are available for download in English and Spanish. Other special resources can be downloaded at the NAMI.org website (resources for outreach to faith communities).
Start your MIAW preparation now and begin changing attitudes, changing lives!
October 2 thru 8, 2011
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). This is a wonderful opportunity to partner with community groups in your area to raise awareness about mental illness. Information and resources, including a new bulletin insert, are available at MIAW.
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.
*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).
Is Your Faith Community Responsive to Persons with Mental Illnesses?
- Does your congregation make a deliberate attempt to welcome and integrate persons with mental illness and their families into the total life and work of the church (without being obvious and setting them apart) by:
- Being accepting, friendly, understanding and genuine?
- Praying for those who are experiencing a mental illness the same as for other illnesses?
- Visiting and calling on the individual experiencing mental illness and by offering to help in little ways (remembering to follow-through with commitment)?
- Offering support and love to the parents or family of the individual, by inquiring about their family member’s health as one would for anyone who is ill?
- Listening and talking with the individual experiencing mental illness?
- Does your congregation use every opportunity to educate themselves and others about mental illness by:
- Encouraging clergy, lay staff and congregational members to learn about mental illness?
- Raising awareness of mental illness in sermons, bulletins, and newsletters?
- Adding books and other publications tot he congregation’s library?
- Becoming familiar with local mental health services and support groups?
- Does your congregation offer its facilities and/or resources to individuals experiencing mental illness and their families by:
- Hosting a group of people from a local residential facility?
- Sponsoring support groups for individuals experiencing mental illness and/or families?
- Offering employment opportunities?
- Does your congregation advocate for people experiencing mental illness?
- Working with other churches and organizations, such as the Mental Health Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
- Supporting efforts to obtain appropriate housing and jobs?
- Not letting false, stigmatizing and discriminatory statements about mental illness go unchallenged?
- Supporting adequate state and local budgets for mental health services?
- Giving money for research into the causes and cures for mental illness?
- Does your congregation undertake a ministry to, ministry with, and ministry by persons experiencing mental illness and their families? Are they invited to serve as leaders and committee members?
(Sources: HopeAllianz Counseling and Healing Center. Adapted from criteria established by the Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network, NAMI-MN: “Information about Mental Illness and NAMI-MN for Faith Communities and Religious Leaders,” 2001; FaithNet).
By Barbara Justus
To describe the impact the Reverend Chet Watson has had on mental health ministry in this country is a daunting task.
Since his son was diagnosed with a serious mental illness 17 years ago, Fr. Chet has been both warrior and saint on behalf of those with mental illnesses and their families.
Whether he is soothing the battered hearts of those with mental illnesses or challenging policymakers or fellow clergy to open their eyes to how critical mental health issues are, Fr. Chet leaves a big wake wherever he goes.
Perhaps author, colleague and friend, the Reverend Jim Stout, has summed up the impact of Fr. Chet’s ministry most eloquently. Reverend Stout, a Presbyterian pastor who has served churches from 300–4,700 members around the nation, was diagnosed with a mental illness many years ago.
Rev. Stout says:
I’ve known Chet Watson for over 15 years. He has been a strong and sensitive mentor to me. His influence has extended to his community, county, the state of California and the nation… via his leadership and service on various boards such as NAMI CA (National Alliance on Mental Illness), NAMIFaithnet, antistigma and various other community activities, including the establishment of a 80-bed facility in a residential neighborhood. While he is unapologetically Episcopalian, he has worked extremely effectively with believers of all faiths, across denominational lines… and with nonbelievers as well.
I don’t know how this truly humble man has done so much for those affected by mental illness in his church community, state and nation… He is, above all, a man of great faith and a man who deeply cares for the people with mental disabilities and their families!
If we could clone Fr. Chet and plant him in every diocese across the country, the state of mental illness ministries in the Episcopal Church would be much healthier. However, since we must bring the mountain to Mohammed, Fr. Chet was kind enough to share his experiences and advice with EMIN readers.
So enjoy the interview and show it to your fellow parishioners if you want to start or enhance a mental health ministry in your congregation.
- EMIN: Did you ever dream that your life’s ministry would ultimately focus on advocacy for those with mental illness?
- Fr. Chet: No. However, I do remember when I was 12 years old and my younger brother was deathly ill, I made a promise to God that I would give my life to Him if He would save my brother.
- My life has been a good lesson about making (and keeping) one’s promises, particularly to God!
- I was ordained to the Diaconate in 1980. Nine years later, I entered seminary and was ordained a priest in 1991 by the recently retired Bishop William Swing. Bishop Swing has been a great supporter of EMIN and other mental illness ministries. The Rev. Richard York, my predecessor, encouraged Bishop Swing to create one of the few Commissions on Mental Illness (COMI) in the Episcopal church. This was to fulfill the General Convention Resolution in 1991 on mental illness.
- After the Rev. York died in 1994, all eyes turned on me when the question of leadership was raised at the next COMI meeting and that’s how I became chair of it.
- EMIN: What are the most important things you think a congregation can do to make their church a welcoming place for those with mental illness?
- Fr. Chet: From my answers to your questions, you will be able to tell that I consider the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) a critical resource for any mental illness ministry, secular or religious.
- So here are my candid recommendations.
- If you wait for the vicar or rector to bring the subject up, think again.
- Know that you are not alone. Save your energy and use all the resources your local NAMI chapter can provide—mental illness is their business 24/7. Have someone from the congregation attend a NAMI meeting to get a feel for the ministry you are about to embark on.
- Rate your church. You can find a checklist at the EMIN website: www.eminnews.org. (Click the tab on the left hand side of the homepage that says “Take Action.”)
- Plan events in May, and which is Mental Health Month, and during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October.
- Write an article about mental illness in your church publication. EMIN has a section on its website, www.eminnews.org. Click on “Take Action” and follow the links to “The Printed Word.”
- Add this phrase to the Prayers of the People, “We pray for those who live with mental illness, their caregivers and their families.”
- Call the local NAMI and offer space for a support group. This is known as “walking your talk.”
- Prepare yourself for stigma. You will be shocked. Be gentle in your education efforts; remember, at one time you were not very aware until someone shared with you.
- EMIN: How can one person jumpstart a mental illness ministry at their church?
- Fr. Chet: First, I would get as many people involved as you can. Put together a written plan, get the support of your clergy, and then present it to your congregation’s governing board. Again, I suggest turning to NAMI for ideas. The Family to Family class is a good start, a turnkey program you can put on at your church.
- Publicize mental health issues in bulletins, minutes for mission. NAMI has a powerful program called “In Our Own Voice,” a speaker’s bureau of persons with mental illnesses who are able to articulate their experiences eloquently.
- Learn about stigma and how to combat it. Join NAMI StigmaBusters. And, perhaps most important, be patient. People only know what someone has taught them and mental illness is a scary topic for lots of people.
- EMIN: What do you feel families need most when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness?
- Fr. Chet: Friendship. Empathy, not sympathy. Understanding, not judgment or advice. Mental illness is not a “casserole disease.” And please watch your language. You may mean well, but stigmatizing language surrounding mental illness is rampant and it is very hurtful. A touch on the arm or shoulder speaks for you.
- Those of us who have family members with mental illness have had enough advice from family and friends. True friends know it is okay not to speak.
- EMIN: What would you like to see the National Church do differently concerning mental illness?
- Fr. Chet: Many things come to mind but the foremost is to remove the page in The Book of Occasional Services, concerning exorcism. The Diocese of California submitted a resolution to General Convention 2003, Resolution C038, concerning stigma and abuse by clergy towards persons with mental illnesses, but it got referred to a committee where it will never be seen again.
- The Church has been silent much too long. A good example is the lack of funding for the EMIN, the only publication and voice in the entire church advocating for the mentally disabled. We have a long ways to go to catch up with other faith communities.