National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from FaithNet NAMI

NAMI FaithNet Newsletter: October 2011

In This Issue:

  • Veterans Day and Beyond: A Time to Remember and Support
  • For Some, Faith is a Powerful Partner in Mental Health Care
  • Mental Illness Awareness Week an Opportunity for Congregations

Veterans Day and Beyond: A Time to Remember and Support

By Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, NAMI FaithNet Advisory Group, Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries

On Friday, November 11, Veteran’s Day provides us the opportunity to remember and honor all persons who have served in the U.S. military—past and present. We can make a difference in the lives of millions if we not only remember, but also reach out to support these men and women returning from combat service. Many service members return experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a major mental health disorder, which is caused in this case by factors relating to enlistment in the military, including combat. A Rand Corporation study estimated that one in five U.S. service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan will experience major depression or PTSD.

As more of our troops continue to return home, we are seeing an increase in combat stress, addiction, domestic violence and suicide. Too often the response to these serious mental health problems is silence, resulting in only half of those affected seeking treatment. As military doctors, officers and chaplains encourage service men and women to get help for PTSD symptoms, more are beginning to seek treatment. When diagnosed early, the symptoms can be treated and more significant problems can be avoided.  Regardless of political views about the war, clergy and faith communities can be part of the support team for returning veterans and their families.

Here are a few ways faith communities can support military persons and their families:

  • Publically acknowledge members of the congregation who have served or are serving in the military through prayers, listing names in the service bulletin and posting photos of those currently serving. 
  • Send letters, care packages and other tokens of support to persons who are deployed.
  • Support families dealing with the transition of persons leaving for service and returning home. Faith communities can reach out through phone calls, providing meals, providing childcare and most importantly, providing a listening ear.
  • Know the signs of distress and offer to help when an individual or family is struggling.  Children are especially sensitive to signs of stress in the home.
  • Provide non-judgmental pastoral care and opportunities for veterans to share their story and talk about how their combat experience has affected their faith.

For more information, NAMI's newest brochure on mental illness, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, covers the symptoms of trauma, treatment options and coping strategies for individuals living with PTSD and their loved ones. Written by NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, M.D., it can also be used as a tool to help returning service men and women and veterans. Read the brochure online or purchase copies in the NAMI bookstore. In addition, NAMI offers Web resources via the NAMI Veteran’s Resource Center, complete with support and information for families, veterans and active duty military experiencing mental health issues and a Web resource on PTSD.

For Some, Faith is a Powerful Partner in Mental Health Care

Citing studies that have found that spirituality helps many struggling with mental illness, MLive, an online collective of Michigan newspapers, recently featured a compelling article on faith as a powerful partner in mental health care. This article explores the view many churches have of treatment, the view many in the treatment field have of religion and the ultimate benefit of both to people who live with mental illness. Read the MLive article for the full story.

Mental Illness Awareness Week an Opportunity for Congregations

Despite a vivid, negative childhood experience, Huffington Post blogger Monica Coleman, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at the Claremont School of Theology, finds understanding in it. In October, Coleman offered encouragement and advice to faith communities, recognizing that they are “best-positioned to respond to the faith issues that arise for people who live with and love those who live with mental illness.” Read her Huffington Post blog for the full story.

NAMI FaithNet respects all faith beliefs. It also recognizes the expression by the majority of those affected by mental illness of the importance of the role of their spirituality in their ability to cope with having one of these illnesses themselves or in caring for an ill friend or family member.