In this issue:
Almost four years ago, Highland Baptist Church, in Louisville, KY, began an alternative service, first to attract those in the community who don't normally attend church on Sunday. Today, the same service (known as Friday Church) now ministers to persons in Louisville who are recovering from either drug or alcohol addiction.
“The Power of Higher Powers,” The cover story from the Summer 2008 edition of Schizophrenia Digest, details ways in which the faith community continues to make inroads with the medical community. Psychiatrists are becoming more open and aware of using faith and spirituality as tools to help people in recovery from mental illness. “In many cases, religious beliefs appear to be associated with lower levels of hopelessness and with less depression” the article states. Persistence of parishioners calling out to faith organizations results in programs like the Faith and Fellowship program in Chicago, Illinois, that began in 1979 and continues to thrive today.
Thanks to the late Thelma Gordon, a parishioner then living with schizophrenia, and Connie Rakitan, director, the program serves not as a support group about mental illness, but about a common journey in faith.
The groups consist of 10 to 15 adults of all faiths; each has approximately equal numbers of members with a mental illness and volunteers from local churches. They meet semi-weekly as partners in prayer and socialization.
Included in the article are efforts by people like Chris Summerville of Manitoba, Canada, to educate the public about treating the whole person and not just the illness. He has made it his life mission to educate the public about the “forgotten dimension” and away from the perception that mental illness can only be helped in just two aspects of mind and body. “In Canada, Aboriginal people have taught us that if you want to talk to us about mental health, then talk to us about the mind, body, and spirit connection. The Eurocentric, biomedical model has proven to be deficient because of its exclusive emphasis just on biochemistry.”
Thirty young Muslim men and women in Dearborn, Michigan, calling their group 30/30—30 Muslims met for 30 days—planned an agenda around helping teens in their community deal with drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness, and teaching those on the outside about their faith.
Their aim is to establish mentoring and counseling programs for high school students, offer leadership retreats for young adults, and develop brochures that explain Muslim practices.
In addition, 30/30 will offer an online forum and a hotline, as issues surrounding treatment can be trickier in a culture that uses shame to deter socially unacceptable behavior. This is especially important, as there are no community service programs focusing on youth and led by young adults from a Muslim perspective. For the full story, click here.
The Congregational Resouce Guide offers an annotated bibliography of over 60 books, videos and organizations specifically relevant to use in faith communities.
NAMI Indianapolis has been doing educational outreach to clergy and congregations for seven years. Their program is called Faith Communities Education Project or FaithCEP. You can learn more about FaithCEP online.
Improving access for the disabled and educating the public will improve accessibility for and improve relations within congregations.
"Church leadership needs to be educated about what mental illness is and what it is not," he said. "When all else fails in our society probably the last refuge for the mentally ill will be our churches and synagogues," said John Richards of NAMI Savannah.
"We have quite a few members that stand out as examples of being able to go into recovery as a result of the support of church leaders and a congregation," he said. "The basic structure is there."
Read more about what churches are doing to reach out to disabled from the Savannah Morning News."