Churches Helping Families Struggling with Mental Illness

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The top two posts on this blog are Famous People With Schizophrenia Give Hope (here) and How Can the Church help Someone with Schizophrenia? (here).  Close behind in popularity, How to Respond to Hearing Voices (here) and Frederick Frese &“12 Aspects of Coping with Schizophrenia” (here).  Readers want to know how to cope with mental illness.  People of faith want to know how to help.

The following churches and individuals have found ways to offer help, from collaborative efforts with NAMI to coffee house hospitality.  Complex programs, support groups, or prayerfully created crafts—perhaps you or your church will find one of these “doable.”

Mental Health Ministries

Founded in 2001 by Methodist pastor Rev. Gregg-Shroeder in response to her experience with depression, this ministry’s website offers numerous resources for faith based communities.  Under the tab, It Worked for Us/What We are Doing, you will find a list of churches and what worked for them, such as:

• Galilee Advocates in Virginia hold monthly meetings featuring videos available from Mental Health Ministries on topics such as depression, anxiety, stigma, and Alzheimer disease.  See resource list at  http://www.mentalhealthministries.net/resources/index.html
• A Texas, NAMI sponsored, one-day training program for clergy and lay people, hoping to “sprout faith-based family and peer to peer support,”  resulted in two local church support groups, with four more churches to follow.
• The Living Room ministry in British Columbia, a peer support group started by Marja Bergen.  She wrote a manual for other churches to use, which you can download online at http://livingroomsupport.org/getinvolved
• An Illinois United Church of Christ collaboration with NAMI began after the funerals of five suicide victims.
• Bright Tomorrows in Oklahoma, an interdenominational non-profit run by clergy, mental health professionals and individuals concerned about mental illness, provides weekly support groups, educational breakfast seminars for pastors and professional ministers, and consultation services.

View more churches and groups at http://www.mentalhealthministries.net/it_worked_for_us/what_we_are_doing.html

On the same ministry web site you will find a list of individuals who found ways to put their skills to use (see It Worked for Us/Your Ideas) such as:
• Art therapy support groups
• “Comfort kit” gift baskets
• Creation of an educational power point presentation about suicide risk

A Nouwen Network

This cross-denominational ministry began in 2009 in Australia.  With author Henri Nouwen’s words in mind, “Gathered together in common vulnerability, we discover how much we have to give each other,” small groups meet in coffee shops.  The focus of meetings is hospitality and inclusion.  Recognizing how mental illness strips so much away from a person, including a sense of self-worth and hope, a main goal of the gatherings is to offer a place for people to talk about the threads of their life in order to regain a sense of wholeness.  They also explore the gifts and talents that are evident to others and the fruit that has grown in the ground of suffering.

This is neither the educational approach of other ministries, nor a support group, but a ministry of restoration, full of grace and dignity. I have not attended a meeting but from reading the web site, Out of the Depths, and having read Nouwen’s books, I believe you would find a gentle, affirming, hope-filled environment. “There is a community of listeners at the table…”

The web site states, “We meet in a coffee shop and create a safe place—a place of celebration, and a place where truth can be spoken….Our gift to those present is that ‘faith,’ ‘spirituality,’ ‘God,’ and ‘church’ can be spoken about.” The site includes many prayers for people suffering with mental illness.

To start A Nouwen Network in your city only takes three members prepared to act as hosts. Please contact http://nouwennetwork1234.wordpress.com/contact/ for more information.

Out of the Depths http://nouwen-network.com or http://nouwennetwork1234.wordpress.com

Comfort Cushions

On the Nouwen Network web site you will also find instructions for making Comfort Cushions, described as “a gift of prayer and care for a person who suffers due to mental health issues affecting their life.”  If you are familiar with the Prayer Shawl ministry, this project is similar.