In This Issue:
By Bill and Bonnie Kinschner
At the beginning of this past March, two interfaith groups, who focus on mental illness in North Carolina, offered their communities opportunities to hear Rev. Craig Rennebohm, author of Souls in the Hands of a Tender God, executive director of Pathways to Promise and a member of the NAMI FaithNet Advisory Group. After spending time in Chapel Hill, N.C. as a keynote speaker for the Second Annual Faith Connections on Mental Illness Conference he traveled to Western North Carolina where he spoke in nine different gatherings to people in Asheville and Hendersonville. These events were sponsored and organized by a recently formed team called, Mountain Faith Initiatives (MFI). These two separate interfaith groups both work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, increase understanding, encourage people to recognize the importance of the spiritual journey in healing and create caring communities of faith for those living with mental illness and those who love and care about them.
Rev. Rennebohm covered a number of topics at the various events in North Carolina, including: (1) spiritual care and mental illness; (2) companioning; (3) organizing a mental health team in faith communities; (4) the use of NAMI FaithNet’s resource Bridges of Hope to reach out to faith communities; and (5) the Pathways national training initiative. It was a tremendous opportunity to have Rev. Rennebohm bring his wisdom, extensive experience, knowledge of materials and resources—many of which he created or helped to create—and passion and encouragement. It is wonderful to have someone come into a community and “spark the flame” for action. But the truth is we all have those sparks in our communities already. They are the members of NAMI and others who are passionate about bringing the message of hope to others. And we have the tools to carry out this mission. Reaching Out to Faith Communities is a four-part training curriculum provided by NAMI FaithNet to encourage and equip NAMI members to share their stories and these resources with local faith groups.
The event in Western North Carolina was called “A Time to Come Together,” and indeed, the time is now. We can all work in our various locations and through our NAMI Affiliates to bring messages of hope and healing to and our faith communities. We will be fanning the flame set by Rev. Rennebohm in North Carolina, but most importantly we will be building on the power of bringing people together who share the same concerns and passions and who want to make a difference in the lives of those living with a mental illness and those who love and care about them.
For more information, visit Mountain Faith Initiatives at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Glen D. Roseman, Concerts of Hope Inc.
At 17, the age when most teenagers—myself included—are setting goals for their future, mental illness swooped into my life unannounced. My initial symptoms included unrealistic, exaggerated thoughts, bouts of depression and high swings of mania. As the years progressed, so did the severity of my symptoms. My early environment was filled with many stressors and some family dysfunction. My father had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 28, which placed a large strain on my family. My grandfather lived with bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Joyce and Glen Roseman
Though my illness went untreated, I found the grit to complete my college music degree. In desperation, I finally sought professional psychiatric treatment. Ten years had passed since the onset of my disease. I will never forget my psychiatrist’s reaction to my condition: She told me I was a miracle. I was one of the few patients she had ever encountered who had never tried to ease the symptoms with drugs, alcohol or sex. I attribute this to my deep faith in God, which carried me through all my years of darkness. My doctor placed me on several medications until I finally found one that was effective. The quality of my life completely changed; I felt like a bird freed from its caged prison.
Eight months later, I married my wife, Joyce, my soul mate and best friend. Joyce and I have been married for 23 years. Learning to manage my disease, our marriage, relationships and three children remains our highest achievement. We attribute our longevity and parental success to a balance of faith, life management, medication and support/therapy. Keeping our lives as free from stress as much as we can and living in an organized environment have also been keys to keeping me stable. We found refuge in our faith, which carried us through many storms. We garner support from family and friends. We have attended NAMI support groups for caregivers and individuals. These wonderful groups have given us respect and courage to hope for a better future, and we understand that we are not alone.
I lost 12 jobs in the first 10 years of marriage due to consequences of my illness. Many of my employers were churches where I worked as a minister of music. Though I possessed all the gifts for this work, this environment often proved unforgiving. I was repeatedly let go by clergy who expressed no desire to understand my disease. I spent years working in places I did not belong. After such a long string of losses, I had to find a way to manage my work. Choosing self-employment and working within my natural skill sets has proven to be a primary contributor to my stability.
A real and vibrant part of what works continues to be my ability to work creatively. One day while winding used guitar strings, I saw the potential for jewelry and mentioned the idea to my wife. Our company, Strung Up Jewelry, was born in the spring of 2009. Our handcrafted recycled guitar string jewelry has now been sold in over 30 states and eight countries. As a way to give back, we donate a portion of all the proceeds from our sales to charity.
Not long after we started our company, Joyce and I launched a nonprofit foundation, Concerts of Hope Inc. The primary mission is mental health advocacy and education through art, music and inspirational speaking. This foundation joins together our gifts as musicians, our passion for creative arts and the power of our personal life recovery story. Our belief that everyone needs to hear the positive life recovery stories prompted us to yet another creative adventure. We decided the most effective way to market our story, products and mission was to live life less encumbered and more simplistic.
So in the summer of 2010, we sold all our possessions and moved into a 32-foot fifth wheel RV. We headed out on an unscripted journey to help others effectively navigate their lives with mental illness or brain chemistry illnesses (as we like to describe them). We have shared our foundation, told our life recovery story, sold jewelry, presented music and provided inspirational presentations. We have advocated for the proper understanding of mental illness to thousands of people. Our “Wear It and Share It” moniker carries a power all its own. We have been encouraged while listening to the amazing survival stories of many people. We are never alone in our struggles.
I also attribute my steady mental health to my personal faith life, consistent organized lifestyle, exercise and diet and medication management. This and regular appointments with psychiatric professionals has kept me consistent and helped me progress in my wellness.
I would not trade the pain and adversity mental illness has allowed me. It has made me a better man. It has helped my wife learn true compassion. It has caused my children to develop a great heart for advocacy. The greatest day of my life occurred when I completely embraced mental illness as a friend. Though it certainly stole a lot from me, I have refused to let it win and destroy me, or my relationships with my wife and daughters. In spite of it, I live determined to experience a fulfilled and productive life. I will be a voice for those who still suffer in silence. I am living proof there is always hope!
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