Mental Health Month: Faith Education and Collaboration
By Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
May is Mental Health Month and it is quickly approaching. The month offers an opportunity to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illness. This month also presents an opportunity to make connections with other groups in the community addressing mental health issues. There are many excellent educational resources developed by a variety of denominations and national groups for faith communities.
In addition to being a NAMI FaithNet advisory member, I also started Mental Health Ministries as a way to reduce mental health stigma in faith communities. We have three bulletin inserts available in English and Spanish to help raise awareness during Mental Health Month: May is Mental Health Month (English | Spanish), Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents (English | Spanish) and Children’s Mental Health Week (English) as the first week in May focuses on children and youth.
Mental Health Ministries also just released a new DVD, Stories of Healing and Hope: PTSD, Trauma and Suicide, that features our three most recent shows. These shows address the increased attention brought to sexual harassment and the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among those serving in the military. These three shows also cover the rise in suicide rates among military personnel. This DVD can serve as a resource for congregations, pastors and other religious officials to help them understand the extent of this problem and the reality of it. This can allow them to provide the proper care and support to those who are affected.
But having educational resources is the first step. The question then becomes, “How will faith leaders learn that these resources exist?” It is helpful for faith communities to find ways to collaborate with groups in their community to raise awareness about mental health and to identify referral information. This kind of collaboration is happening across the country and there are many exciting models that bring together faith leaders, mental health providers, and national groups, such as NAMI.
One example of someone working to bridge faith communities with the community as a whole is a San Diego couple who shared their story about the suicide of their son. They discovered a way to make a difference by starting the Community Alliance for Health Minds (CAHM) in San Diego. CAHM hosts a yearly forum that brings together partners from mental health organizations, schools and community agencies, survivors and caregivers, pastors and faith providers. Each forum features inspirational speakers and instructive workshops for those who attend this free event. This couple also serves on the councils of two county agencies that are collaborating to reach out to faith communities. The interagency San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council, a subcommittee of the Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP), will sponsor a breakfast in May for faith leaders. If you are in the San Diego area, I will be speaking at this breakfast and sharing educational resources from Mental Health Ministries that can be added to “tool kits” provided to the participants.
May is designated as Mental Health Month, but it is important to remember that mental health issues affect millions of Americans every single day. Education and advocacy are necessary all year round.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder is a member of the NAMI FaithNet Advisory Committee. Print and media resources are available at the Mental Health Ministries website, www.MentalHealthMinistries.net.