WHAT IS A CARING CONGREGATION?
A Caring Congregation is one that takes seriously the direction to be the body of Christ in this world. It is a congregation that can see the person of Christ in the behaviors of its members. It is a congregation that can find the gifts in each person and create situations where those gifts can shine.
A Caring Congregation has an atmosphere about it that lets members and visitors know it is OK to bring, our brokenness to the altar, and to the Sunday School Class and to the church committee. It is a congregation that has scheduled opportunities for sharing the hurt and shame that come with the brokenness and that says over and over again, "you are forgiven," and "share your special gifts with us."
A "Caring Community" is the name adopted by the 1996 General Conference to identify those congregations that intentionally decide to be in relationship with persons with mental illness and their families. The Northwest Texas Annual Conference has taken action urging all its congregations to become "Caring Communities." This involves a formal covenant to include persons with mental illness and their families in the congregation, a commitment to receive training about mental illness, and joining the national network of Caring Communities.
A "Caring Community" is not a mental health clinic, or a day program--although a congregation may sponsor these professional services. A "Caring Community" is not an advocacy program, although advocacy may happen as awareness develops. A "Caring Community" takes seriously the challenge to provide what only a congregation can provide-~a place where the spiritual needs of a person and family can be addressed. The caring of congregation members provides the opportunity for:
- Acceptance of the gifts and the limits of the mentally ill person and their family.
- Knowledge of the illness and its effects.
- A safe place to talk about the illness and its effects.
- A safe place to be.
- A safe place to experience and talk about the range of feelings and emotions that accompany mental illness.
- A safe place to make a contribution to the congregation, to feel useful.
- Contact with people who are not experiencing mental illness.
- Love- -with the ability to set limits, and to not tolerate abuse.
- Accommodating to behaviors that are sometimes very frightening.
- Forgiveness for the behaviors of the illness, the omissions of family members.
- Relationships that have meaning.
- A support network through the bad times, and knowledgeable friends to rejoice with in the good times.
The benefits of being a "Caring Community" include experiencing the love of God in a new way, and seeing the growth of the love in sharing. They may include seeing the person of God in members of the congregation.
This paper is a compilation of the experiences of members of the Northwest Texas Annual Conference Mental Health Task Force, recorded by Mary Lou Bade, MSW.
MYTH VS FACT
regarding MENTAL HEALTH and AGING
Myth: Older adults are incapable of change so mental health
treatment would be ineffective.
Fact: Older adults continue to change and learn in later life.
Myth: Considering the inevitable problems associated with aging, depression is a normal reaction; the elderly should accept the inevitable
slowing down and loss of cognitive abilities.
Fact: Depression is not a normal factor associated with aging.
Ordinarily older adults are not depressed.
Myth: There is no point in starting treatment with so little time left in an elderly person's life.
Fact: Progress in treating mental disorders in older adults has made
significant advances during the last ten years.
Myth: Personality changes are: a normal part of growing older.
Fact: Personality remains stable with aging. When personality changes are observed in older adults, they do not signal the inevitable course of aging, but do indicate symptoms associated with mental health problems that are treatable.
Myth: Dementia is a rapidly progressive and unremitting disorder.
Fact: The standard definition of dementia describes a condition that
may be progressive, static. or remitting. Effective treatment and social
supports can affect the onset and course of dementia.
Myth: Older adults don't want mental health care because they feel stigmatized 5y it.
Fact: Studies show that when mental health interventions are accessible and costs do not create barriers, older adults use mental health services.
MYTH VS FACT
regarding MENTAL HEALTH and AGING
Myth: Children do not get mental illness
Fact: Twelve million children under the age of eighteen will have some form of psychiatric illness in any six-month period.
Myth: The majority of children with mental health problems receive appropriate treatment.
Fact: Fewer than one in five children who have a mental disorder receive treatment of any kind.
Myth: Children do not suffer from depression because they are spared the stresses adults must face.
Fact: Three to six million children suffer from clinical depression.
Myth: Children rarely commit suicide.
Fact: Children who suffer from depression are a high risk for suicide. Every hour fifty-seven children and teenagers try to kill themselves; every day eighteen succeed. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people.
Myth: Attention-deficit disorders (ADD) is over diagnosed.
Fact: ADD affects three to ten percent of all children in the United States. It is thought to be ten times more common in boys than girls. This disorder often develops before age of seven but is most often diagnosed when the child is between ages of eight and ten.
Myth: "Poor parenting" is a cause of childhood mental disorders.
Fact: Blaming parents is not appropriate, since the causes, are complex and never due to any single factor. Research indicates that many mental illness have a biological component which makes a child susceptible to the disorder. Blaming parents, and feelings of guilt by parents, is often as inappropriate as feelings of guilt about other childhood illness or about inherited health problems. The key is to recognize there is a problem and seek appropriate treatment.
THE STANCE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The 1996 Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, page 320, states:
The Church, as the body of Christ, is called to the ministry of reconciliation, of healing, and of salvation, which means to be made whole. We call upon the Church to affirm ministries related to mental illness that embrace the role of community, family, and the healing professions in healing the physical, social, environmental, and spiritual impediments to wholeness for those afflicted with brain disorders and for their families.
1. We call upon all local churches, districts, and annual conferences to support the following community and congressional programs:
(a) adequate public funding to enable mental-health systems to provide appropriate therapy
(b) expanded counseling and crisis intervention services;
(c) workshops and public awareness campaigns to combat stigmas;
(d) housing and employment for deinstitutionalized persons;
(e) improved training for judges, police, and other community officials in dealing with mentally ill persons;
(f) community and congregational involvement with patients in psychiatric hospitals and other mental-health-care facilities;
(g) community, pastoral, and congregational support for individuals and families caring for mentally ill family members;
(h) more effective interaction among different systems involved in the care of mentally ill persons, including courts, police, employment, housing, welfare, religious, and family systems;
(i) education of their members in a responsible and comprehensive manner about the nature of the problems of mental illness facing society today, and the public-policy advocacy needed to change policies and keep funding levels high;
(j) active participation in helping their communities meet both preventive and therapeutic needs related to mental illness; and
(k) the work of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), Washington, D.C., a self-help organization of mentally ill persons, their families, and friends, providing mutual support, education, and advocacy for those persons with severe mental illness and urging the churches to connect with NAMI's religious outreach network. We also commend to the churches Pathways to Promise: Interfaith Ministries and Prolonged Mental Illnesses, St. Louis, Missouri, as a necessary link in our ministry on this critical issue.
MORE HELPFUL LINKS
The following are some links that you will find helpful:
Pathways to Promise, http://www.pathways2promise.org/. Pathways to Promise was founded by fourteen faith groups and mental health organizations to facilitate the faith community's work in reaching out to those with mental illnesses and their families. pathways is a technical assistance and resource center for those interested in this area of ministry. Informational booklets, worship resources, manuals, curricula resources, pamphlets, bulletin inserts, and videotapes designed for use by faith groups at national, regional, local and congregational levels are available. Some written materials are available in protestant, Roman Catholic, or Jewish versions. pathways has annotated bibliographies of resources and programs and can do a search for those interested in receiving specific information.