This article provides background information, prayers, liturgies, sermon starters, and websites for the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding and Mental Illness Awareness Week,both in October.. You are encouraged to use these resources throughout the year to raise awareness about mental illness. Sermon Starters with Scripture citations from the Mental Health Ministries resource, Mental Health Mission Moments, are included.
Note: The special day of prayer for mental illness recovery and understanding was initiated by Angela D. Vickers, JD of NAMI Florida, and Gunnar E. Christiansen, MD, of NAMI California in 2004. It has had widespread support by individual congregations and National Faith Community Mental Illness Networks.
The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding has been designated as the Tuesday of Mental Illness Awareness Week which is the first week in October of each year. Mental illness networks and faith leaders are urged to work together so that they may recognize and prepare for this day in a way that works best for each faith community. The prayers and actions of both faith communities and secular organizations ( NAMI, NMHA, DBSA, OCF, ADAA, and so on) are needed to restore mental wellness in America. In seeking God's guidance, we can recommit ourselves to replacing misinformation, blame, fear, and prejudice with truth and love in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.
Prayer of Confession
Leader: We confess that we are still uninformed about mental illness and how it impacts people and their families.
Response: At times, because of our lack of knowledge and understanding, we find ourselves separated from our sisters and brothers with mental illness, their families, and ourselves.
Leader: There are lines drawn between us because we may define wholeness and normality with different words, but not a different spirit.
Response: Because of our lack of knowledge, we live cut off from sources of strength and power that would help us be present to people with mental illness. This lack often makes us feel that we cannot act.
Leader: So many events, meetings, and needs call to us, grabbing for our attention, that we find ourselves stretched to a fine, thin line.
Response: In the face of all this, we continue to seek knowledge and understanding of mental illness that will bring liberation and shalom to us and those we serve and unite us to action.
All: O God, our liberation and shalom, we seek the power of your Spirit, that we may live in fuller union with you, ourselves, and our sisters and brothers with mental illness. Also grant that we may gain courage to love and understand each other. Amen.
Loving Creator, we come to you on this National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding because we know that you are a God of love and compassion. We come as people of all creeds and all nations seeking your presence, comfort and guidance. We come as consumers, family members, friends, co-workers and mental health professionals. We come this day because we believe that you, Divine One, love each one of us just as we are and you walk with us on our individual journeys through life. You see the ignorance and injustice that divides and separates persons struggling with mental illness and you weep with us.
Give us courage to face our challenges and open us today to the many ways you are already working in our midst. Help us to identify mental illness as the disease it is, that we might have courage and wisdom in the face of ignorance and stigma. Inspire us as we seek to overcome fear, acquire knowledge, and advocate for compassionate and enlightened treatment and services.
Lead us as we open our hearts and homes, our communities and job opportunities, our houses of worship and communities of faith. Enable us to find ways to be inclusive of persons living with mental illness in our everyday lives. Be with doctors, therapists, researchers, social workers, and all those in the helping professions as they seek to overcome ignorance and injustice with care and compassion.
Sometimes, Divine Spirit, we feel discouraged and hopeless in the face of so many challenges. Help us to see ourselves as you see us.persons of value and worth.persons of creativity and potential. May we come to understand the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit in bringing about health and wholeness. And may we go forward into our communities with a renewed sense of vision, hope and possibility for the future. Amen.
(The Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder)
(May be used as bulletin insert)
The faith community says to those people who suffer from the symptoms of mental illness and to their family members:
We will walk with you. And God walks with you. You will not go through this alone.
Pray in unison:
O Lord, you have searched us and known us
You know when we sit down and when we rise up,
and know our innermost thoughts.
You search out our paths and know all our ways.
Before we speak, you know our words.
When we were knit together in our mother's womb,
You knew us as woman, as child, as man.
Wherever we go, your hand will lead us. So guide us along the pathways to hope,
that night becomes bright as day.
So lead us on our walk together,
that darkness is lifted from our hearts.
So encourage us that our sisters and brothers
Who have mental illness shall know that
they never walk alone.
(Source: VICOMIM: Virginia Interfaith Committee on Mental Illness Ministries
Scripture Citations with Sermon Starters
These Scripture citations and Sermon Starters are part of the Resource Guide that are included in the DVD resource, Mental Health Mission Moments. The DVD and Resource Guide are available on the Mental Health Ministries website (www.MentalHealthMinistries.net) for $24.95. Go to the "Videos/DVD Resources" page.
"Coming Out of the Dark" (Length: 30 seconds)
Isaiah 58:8, 9 (Isaiah 58:1-12 Ash Wednesday, Years A, B and C)
John 1:1-5 (John 1:1-14 Christmas Day, Years A, B and C)
John 8: 12
The creation story from the first chapter of Genesis tells of God creating light out of the darkness. Light is a symbol of hope and new life throughout our sacred scriptures. The Gospel of John proclaims, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1: 5). The foundation of our faith is God's victory over darkness and the ultimate triumph of light. Darkness can be terrifying for those experiencing mental illness. But love comes out of the darkness, and this love gradually draws us back into the light of this world. For persons experiencing a mental illness, we can be instruments of God's love by extending care, compassion, and hope to those in the grip of darkness and despair.
"Mental Illness and Families of Faith" (Length: 2:54 minutes)
Luke 15:1-10 (Proper 19, Year C)
When mental illness strikes in young adulthood, families of faith often tell how they experience being "lost" from their faith communities much as the lost son, the lost sheep, or the lost coin in these parables. Jesus' parables image the housewife leaving nothing undisturbed to find the lost coin, and the shepherd risking the entire flock to find the lost sheep. The parables set an example of how we care for persons with a mental illness and their families. They lead us away from our impulse to blame those who are struggling and to focus instead on acceptance and support. When we surround them with our love and care, everyone can celebrate a time of hearing and recovery in the family of faith.
"Understanding Depression" (Length: 2:25 minutes)
1 Kings 19:1-16a (Proper 7, Year C)
After a dramatic showdown with the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, in which Elijah was victorious, Queen Jezebel, sympathetic to Baal worship, threatened Elijah's life. Elijah left his servant and fled to the desert where he took refuge under a broom tree. He wished he would die. Instead of gathering his friends around him for support, he isolated himself. Elijah was experiencing many of the symptoms of depression, which are still so very common today, such as lack of sleep, physical exhaustion, feeling rejected and worthless, isolation and irrational negative thoughts about his own death. An angel of the Lord ministered to Elijah until he was ready to return to his community.
"Addiction and Depression" (Length: 2:17 minutes)
John 4:7-30 (Lent 3, Year A)
In the story of the Samaritan woman, Jesus asks for water from an outcast woman a woman who has had five husbands and is living with still another. Jesus boldly initiates the conversation with the woman at the well, knowing the cultural taboos of a man speaking to a woman and a Jew addressing a Samaritan. Their lengthy conversation centers on the theme of "living water," which Jesus promises to the woman. Persons struggling with addictions that are often brought on by mental illnesses, such as depression, also thirst for "living water." Jesus did not dwell on the Samaritan woman's past. Rather, he gave us an example of how the faith community can initiate a relationship with those struggling with these illnesses. Jesus clearly understood that all people of faith, and especially those who are separated from their faith community for whatever reason, need to be offered a drink from the deep well of "living water" so they may find the gift of new life.
"Teenage Depression and Suicide" (Length: 3:11 minutes)
Luke 15:11-32, The Prodigal Son (Lent 4, Year C)
When a young adult has a mental illness, he or she often feels lost and abandoned by family, friends, and church. Parents need to realize that young people make mistakes because they are young and sometimes because their judgment is impaired by a mental illness. Most, like the prodigal son, come home. If they don't seem to be headed in this direction, parents need to know the signs and should not be afraid to intervene. Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. The church can play a vital role in educating the congregation so that the church can be a safe and supportive community for the youth and the families struggling with these issues.
"Mental Illness and Older Adults" (Length: 2:32 minutes)
1 Samuel 16:14-23
The young David is introduced to the troubled King Saul, who is tormented by "an evil spirit from the Lord." David provides soothing music for the troubled king. But more important, he is caring and compassionate, even in the face of Saul's terrible rages. Too often we try to explain behaviors we do not understand by labels such as "evil spirit" or as a punishment from God. Medical science has taught us much about illnesses of the brain. Modern researchers have theorized that Saul suffered from a mental illness. As people of faith, we are called to share God's love and compassion with those who are hurting. We can and should be instruments of healing and comfort to those we know are suffering from a mental illness through no fault of their own just as David was an instrument of healing and comfort to Saul.
"Where is God in the Darkness" (Length: 2.55 minutes)
If you have never experienced the devastation of a serious mental illness, Psalm 88 is one place to begin. This Psalmist describes feelings of sadness, isolation, anger, abandonment, mistrust, spiritual emptiness, and hopelessness. But sometimes it is precisely with our wounds and in our brokenness that we are most open to God. When we let go of our need to control and are truly open to God's transforming grace, we find that the darkness becomes a time, not of doing and knowing, but of being and unknowing. It is here that we discover the source of mystery that holds us and surrounds us, even when we are not aware of that Divine presence.
"Overcoming Stigma: Finding Hope" (Length: 2:56 minutes)
Micah 6: 8 (8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)
The major reason many people do not get the treatment they need for a mental illness is the stigma that surrounds these illnesses of the brain. Most fear comes from our lack of understanding. Faith leaders and congregations can and should learn ways to be supportive and helpful to people struggling with mental illness. The words of Micah remind us that the Lord requires us "to act justly and to love mercy." This may require us to advocate for social issues affecting the mentally ill. By offering loving mercy and including those struggling with mental illness in our prayers and in the life of our congregations, we will give hope to those who often feel hopeless.
"Creating Caring Congregations" (Length: 2:42 minutes)
Luke 8:26-29 (Proper 7, Year C)
The story of the man called Legion, though it appears three times in the gospels, appears only once in the preaching lectionary. This text from Luke reveals that people with mental illness in biblical times were often banished from their communities because of the community's fear of behaviors they did not understand. In Luke's version of this story, Jesus intentionally sought out this man just as the church must do today. Because of Jesus' love and compassion, this man was healed. The church today is called to embrace those who struggle with a mental illness and be an instrument of healing and wholeness. Even though this man wanted to follow Jesus, he was sent back to the full membership of his own community. And so it was that a person with a mental illness became the first evangelist to the Gentiles.
Websites for More Resources and Information
The ABC-TV documentary, Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness will air on the Hallmark Channel on October 8 at 7 a.m. (ET/PT), 6 a.m. (CT) in the "World of Faith & Values" time slot.
AAPC: American Association of Pastoral Counselors
Association of Brethren Caregivers
Congregational Resource Guide
DBSA: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
HTH: Hope to Healing
NMHA: National Mental Health Association
OASSIS: Organization for Attempters and Survivors of Suicide
Pathways to Promise
VICOMIM: Virginia Interfaith Committee on Mental Illness Ministries
The information on this page was compiled by the Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries, 6707 Monte Verde Dr., San Diego, CA 92119. Website: http://www.MentalHealthMinistries.net. E-Mail: [email protected]