Friday, December 5, 2014

Merry Depression - ECT Again

These truly are the worst things you can say to someone who is depressed. What someone who is depressed needs to hear is kindness, love, understanding, and support. That is what I have, and I feel blessed and full of gratitude to be surrounded by people who open their hearts to me.

It's been nearly three years since a major depressive incident and since my diagnosis of medication resistant depressive. I was treated with 9 session of ECT which were extremely helpful. This depressive episode is escalating quickly and the decision for ECT seems like a no brainer to me. My psychiatrist wanted me to try TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) but with a result time of 6-8 weeks or longer my fear was by that time who knows what kind of hell I would be in with the depression and bad voices and suicide ideation??

With ECT I can start getting good results within a week and permanent results in two. However, it's not all roses, I do wake up with a nasty headache that I must take medication to eliminate. 

What is ECT? It's Electroconvulsive Therapy. What to Expect from ECT Therapy.

The doctors put you under with anesthesia so you don't feel anything. They give you a shock to one side or the other of your brain that lasts a few seconds and then you are sent to recovery. It's over in a matter of minutes.

I've done a lot of soul searching, a lot of praying and this is what I've decided to do. 

It's going to mean a major commitment of time not just for me but for my husband who will have to drive me to the treatments. He has and is so supportive of me and this Bipolar Disorder. 

I've rearranged my schedule to accommodate treatments now I'm waiting for referrals and responses from the doctors. Wish me well and if it's in you to do so, send a prayer for a positive outcome. 

Good news. I've been scheduled after much deliberation between doctors and insurance company. I start next week. This really bolsters my spirits.

Thank you. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Getting a Clear Perspective on Your Mental Illness Through an Attitude of Gratitude - Guest Post

Imagine your this guy outside this window and when you look in you get to hear a part of a private conversation and see a picture of what’s taking place within the room, yet as you move from window to window you realize that even if all the rooms are the same size and are furnished the same way too, yet each room because of the people present, their interactions and the different conversations taking place then they are all very different in fact. This should not surprise you as everyday with our conversations and contact we get a picture of someone else’s world and for me this helps foster an attitude of gratitude and makes me content with my lot. This in turn leads to peace of mind and rest for my mentally troubled spirit.

My work gives me insight:
One of the main problems with any mental illness is that it is inclined to bring our thinking inward where most normal people live with their thought going to and fro from inside to the outside world. This is why mental illness can make a person feel so lonely. Being inside one’s own head can be a very frighten experience especially if the mind is in crisis mode. Thankful for me I have always being able to function to a very high standard and because I can work it is easier for me to be distracted from within my own mind because my work requires a great deal of attention and focus to complete my tasks. But it’s my work where I get the best opportunity to look into each individual’s world. Every day I do between five to seven calls to patients or clients who suffer from some of the following conditions: stroke, cancer, diabetes, blindness, mental illness, dementia, lung disease, immobility, amputees, MS, MND, deep brain injury, old age, arthritis, alcoholism’s, heart problems, autism and many other conditions that can and do disable people both young and old.

One of the things I have learned is that mental illness sufferers are not the only ones to feel pain and suffering and while I hear many mentally ill people say that at least with a physical illness then everyone can see it, where mental illness can go unseen, often denying the suffer of compassion and caring from others which does not usually happen to the person suffering physically which is true yet it is unfair to compare each other’s pain as there are so many variables like, age, gender, pain threshold, culture, race and if that person have other complicating factors.

Cancelled out by the pain and suffering:
But for me that is cancelled out by the pain and suffering I see every day so much so that at night and whenever I pray I thank God that I only have anxiety and a panic disorder because things could be so much worse. Looking into other’s lives gives me perspective on my own condition and when I look around at the suffering and pain that so many have to endure daily then I’m at a loss as to whether physical illness or mental illness is worse than one another. But for me to foster an attitude of gratitude then I must say I’m in the perfect job and have ample opportunity to see how the other half live.

My conclusion is that no matter who you are, no matter how rich you are, no matter what age you are, then pain and suffering will become part of your life experience. We sometimes think our lot is so much greater than everyone else’s lot but take it from me there is enough suffering and pain to go around so everyone can claim a share of it when complaining about life. Just now take a minute and look at the list of conditions that I encounter daily (listed above) and tell me truthfully that you would pick one of them rather than you own illness. I don’t think so. Off course there will be people who will reply that if they had such and such a condition above then they would die and there suffering would be over quickly but even that thinking can be dangerous because this stops a person living to their full potential despite any physical or mental health conditions.

Being grateful is a sign of good mental health:
I remember coming home from school one day and finding my dad and two of his friends crying because another friend of theirs had being diagnosed with cancer, yet the man with the cancer outlived two of the men crying in our kitchen that day over him. So be very careful if you ever think someone else has it better or worse than you as you just might be wrong and live to regret it. Being grateful for all you have and all you are is in itself a sign of good mental health. Its stops you begrudging others their lot and gives a sick mind a time of peace and healing. When I say these things to others I’m often asked why is it that the criminal, the gangster, the drug dealer or thief seem to prosper as opposed to what we call decent folk and I always answer:

 “Just because the evil man has not being dealt with does not mean he has being over looked

In other words everyone will inherit their own reward whether good or evil, so don’t be in a hurry to judge others rather pray they too will turn away from their evil lives because we have all heard the saying “there but for the grace of God go I” And now that I have said all that then please count you blessing and see just how many you really have as I have just lost count of mine. So I hope and pray what every your problem/illness or diagnosis that you receive the grace to live and endure as best you can and somewhere even in the madness of life that you too will find an oasis of peace that will transcend your own suffering and help you make a life for yourself that is fulfilling and meaningful while being conscious of the suffering of others.

-- by Michael Groves

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Personal Triumph Over Bipolar Disorder and Depression - National Bipolar Awareness Day

On September 9rd 2003, my doctor diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder I . (Bipolar II is mostly depression with some manic episodes. Bipolar I is full blown mania with little depression.

My doctor described my diagnosis to me in this way: I'm a 78 RPM person trying to function in a 33 1/3 world. For you baby boomers, you'll know what I mean. If you're younger than a baby boomer and don't understand the analogy, ask your parents to explain it to you.

When I'm manic, I'm like the energizer bunny. Always going. Creating something. Wanting something.

Right after I got diagnosed, I jumped into crafts and started making these little wooden window seats.
I didn't create one or two, or a few. I created dozens. And dozens. And boxes full. I obsessed over getting every single wooden window seat in the Tampa area so I could make something out of it. Then I wanted a puppy. (Thank goodness my husband saw fit to tell me no at that time) Then I jumped into soap making. I made pounds and pounds of soap. (All of this is in less than a week.)

One of the first things I did after diagnosis was to purchase some books on Bipolar and read up on the illness. I wanted to know as much as possible and what I could do to help myself. I learned to eliminate as much stress as possible from my life as it's a definite trigger to a mania or depressive episode.

I learned to help identify my own symptoms that occur prior to a mania or depressive episode and take action ahead of time to help ease my way out of them or through them with less intensity.
How do I cope with all of this? I have an agreement with my husband, my therapist, my psychiatrist and my family doctor to identify symptoms and report them. Whoever I can reach, gets notified that I'm experiencing symptoms and I need help. I immediately cut out everything in my life that isn't a priority. I stay as calm as possible. I go for a walk. I read a book or watch a movie. I take lots of breaks and make sure I take the extra medication my doctor prescribes.

But, to me, having Bipolar feels like I'm an alien among the rest of the human population. I react differently to various situations. I don't feel like I have the same emotions. What makes some people cry or laugh doesn't for me. I know a lot of it is because of the medications I'm on. I no longer view the world through the same window as other people do. I feel different. Isolated. I have the disease no one wants to talk about. Mental Illness.

I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. Couple all of that with OCD and PTSD and we having a “winning” unification of interesting modalities. With all of that combined, it makes for a very stressful person. I'm constantly anxious, nervous, overeating, clenching my jaw (not great for my TMJ), losing focus, breathing shallow, having my heart race, and staying tense. I'm not able to concentrate on anything except the thoughts or words that are repeating in my head feeding my panic.

I cycled from manic to depressive to stable on an irregular basis. There is no predicting when I will have the next cycle. My medications are really good at keeping me as stable as possible. But that hasn't always been that way. My symptoms come and go and I usually experience some degree of a symptom. I’m always aware of my illness, but there are many times when I’m stable and go about my life knowing that I am a capable, productive part of society. I go to the grocery store, get my haircut, take my dog to the vet. Normal, everyday activities. I think that all of those places have been extended into my comfort zone. However, being aware of my illness, I know there are places or activities that I just won’t do because I don’t want to trigger an episode. Like crowded places, or unknown places that might cause me stress. I can handle the mall for short periods of time. I usually park outside the store I want to shop at and go directly to it, instead of drifting through the mall. However, when I'm stable, I do like walking through the mall. So, it all depends. I usually use a coping technique.

I find comfort with my family, my support group and especially my church family.

I’ve made attempts at suicide. Some were just for fun, and I wasn’t really serious. (okay, serious in how serious can a person really be when they attempt suicide, right?) 

However, I started to get serious, and then after my second attempt at wanting to kill myself, I knew I had to find hope. You see, I had the pills and the alcohol. I could just combine them and no one would know until they found me. But, I don't know what stopped me unless it was my religion telling me I don't believe those who commit suicide go to heaven. But, instead, I wrote in my journal. All night, until I got over the urge to take those pills. It was the writing that was my hope.

Things happen for a reason, and I truly believe that. This is where writing therapy started for me. I spent the entire night writing all my thoughts about wanting to kill myself and how I would do it, what would happen afterward and why I didn’t do it.

My husband is a really good judge of my moods and my anxiety level now. He can tell almost immediately if I’m cycling into a manic episode. The signs are quite clear to him. I start talking really fast, I call him incessantly for the smallest things, and I start taking on more projects than I could possibly handle. Even before he was my husband, he would sit with me on the telephone for hours talking with me, while I wrote and he talked. Letting me get all my emotions out.

I used to be a technical writer and was also working as a tech-writing consultant before I became ill. The stress was too much for me, and in order to maintain a certain level of “saneness,” I had to give up my job. It wasn’t all that bad, because I had always dreamed about being an author, and this was a perfect opportunity for me to start working on that goal.

Being a creative person, I wrote quickly during my manic stages of Bipolar. The ideas flowed and I only had to write them down as fast as they’d appear in my mind. But, mania doesn’t last forever, and at times it cycles into depression. It’s difficult to write when I’m depressed. I can’t connect with my characters or the story. I don’t feel the desire to put words to paper. My doctor used my writing as a “barometer” to determine where I am in my cycles. If I’m not writing, then we make adjustments to my medication to get me back to it. Sometimes, the depression cycles last for a while. I’d go through months of no writing, which is very frustrating and difficult for me. I want to write, but the desire to write and the creative forces behind my writing aren’t there.  But, one thing I never gave up on was writing in my journal. Even though I couldn’t create characters on pages, I could write out my woes into my journal. It kept me from going completely insane about not writing at all. The writing healed the raging monster inside of me even though the medication could not.

As part of my medical treatments, my doctor would like to see as few manic episodes as possible. However, I miss those episodes because I felt like I could really harness my writing spirit and capture the ideas that would burst in my mind. I’ve learned to make sure to capture those ideas and write them down before they’re lost forever. I keep binders full of ideas that I’ve thought about while manic. That way, when the mania goes away, I still have the ideas to help me during my “normal (stable)” times. I do have episodes of normality. I can write effectively and with passion. My characters speak to me and I tell their stories when I’m stable. I’ve learned to harness my other writing talents to coincide with the Bipolar Disorder cycles. If I’m not “in the mood” to write, I worked on other parts of my writing career like promotion and public relations. They weren't as fun or as exciting, but they kept the writing embers alive.

I've kept journals for many years and it's never occurred to me to ever doubt my diagnosis. It explains so much in my life. My past is littered with uncontrollable manic episodes and deep depressive cycles. Reading back through my journals only corroborates those times and makes me see them more clearly. The idea about using journaling as a part of writing therapy became a germ of an idea for a bigger project. I knew I was on to something special.

I do try to keep a healthy lifestyle. I think if you’re eating healthier, taking care of yourself, getting exercise, it’s all going to help. I take vitamins and supplements every day, as well as my medications. I think that they’ve helped me maintain a level of stability that I wouldn’t have otherwise. They’ve given my body the extra boost it needs to deal with my illness. Stress, bad eating habits, too much sugar or caffeine, and irregular schedules can all wreak havoc on my illness. By watching what I eat, avoiding caffeine and getting enough sleep, I know I’m taking steps to lessen my chances for an anxiety episode that can then turn into a manic episode. Recently, I found "The Bipolar Diet" and it has done wonders for me. 

There are times when the medications lose their effectiveness. It's usually the anti-depressants. So, the doctor slowly stops me from taking it, lets my body readjust to not having the medication in my system, then slowly reintroduces the medication back into my system making it think it’s new. That’s rough on me. It takes around six weeks to do this. A very long six weeks. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Then the doctor has to find a new anti-depressant that I haven't tried yet and see if that works.

At the end of 2007, I went into a very deep depression. More than likely caused by the ineffectiveness of my medication. I usually hear voices, but they're mostly in the background and they don't bother me, but this time they were talking to me. Making me scared and panicky to drive. Why? Because they wanted me to run into a tree. Or head on into traffic. My choice. So nice of them to give me a choice, don't you think?

The voices continued. I told no one. I kept up a happy front while I stayed sad on the inside and struggled with my voices. This was before I had a therapist, psychiatrist, and an agreement with doctors. The voices grew more insistent and louder. They were all I could think about. One time when I was at my primary care doctor's office, I blurted out what was happening to me. We discussed it, the doctor asked me if I had any thoughts of suicide, I said no, and he made some adjustments to my medications.

But, the voices continued.

This time, the voices told me to pick out a tree. So I searched for one. And found one. A nice palm tree on a corner. With a sturdy steel pole behind it, in case the car went through the tree.

Perfect tree, the voices told me. I felt proud.

I don’t know why, I was really scared, but I again told my doctor the voices wanted me to find a tree. He suggested hospitalization. I pleaded with him not to put me in the hospital. He asked if I'd see a therapist. I agreed.

I found a great therapist. She and I clicked immediately. She evaluated me and had me sign a “no suicide” contract. It was easy to sign. I didn't have any thoughts of suicide. The voices hadn't told me to run my car into the tree yet.

When I got home, I finally told my husband what had been happening and his solution was to take my car keys away. Reasonable solution, except it turned me into a prisoner and made me dive deeper into depression.

The voices and I devised a plan to get the keys back so I could have the car back. We told my husband the voices were gone. That I could drive again. No problem. We told the therapist, no more problems, I can drive again. I felt much better.

I got to drive to the doctor's office and had to pass that tree. As I drove past it, it took all my effort to keep from turning into it. The voices pushed me to drive into the tree. I couldn't do it. I got to the doctor's office. I couldn't lie to him. I told him I found the perfect tree. He immediately got on the telephone with the hospital to admit me. Here in Florida it's called a “Baker Act”. It's when the patient is admitted involuntarily.

I stayed in the hospital for six days. Six long days. I was on suicide watch. I didn't understand why. My weapon of choice was a car. How in the heck was I supposed to get a car up to the 4th floor of the hospital?

My psychiatrist changed my medications. Took me off some. Put me on a new one. Slowly over the six days, the voices went away. The urge to drive into a tree went away. And, best of all? I got happy. I'd been sad for so long, I couldn't remember. But, the difference was breathtaking. Unbelievable.

When I left that hospital six days later I was grinning from ear to ear, and not just because I was leaving, but because I was genuinely happy. I got home and I was happy. I heard a song on my iPod while I was walking the next morning and I knew it was meant for my new lease on life and me, “Walking on Sunshine”.

And, I've been happy and walking on sunshine ever since. My husband took me to Hawaii a few weeks later and then a week after that my daughter gave birth to my first granddaughter.

Getting hospitalized was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I have a new outlook on life. New medications. Less anxiety. Less panic. And, more happiness.

I was hospitalized again in November of 2009; around the same time I was receiving a lot of pain injections for my low back. That whole year I got to spend almost all my time with my granddaughter, the sunshine of my life. Then her mother decided to move to Arizona and I lost my sunshine for many years. She still has not returned to Florida but there is always hope. Most of the time, I spend each year scheduling a flight out to Arizona to visit my children and grandchildren.

I had many surgeries and back procedures for the next two years. I attribute a lot of my hospitalizations to the surgeries. There was a lot of stress and I believe the two were related.

Within two months, I was hospitalized again for a week for depression. Deep Dark Depression.

After that, my psychiatrist decided to send me to a residential treatment facility to work on the deep dark depression that had taken over my life. It was a facility in central Florida, far from home. My husband could only visit on weekends and only after he made suitable arrangements for our pets.

It was a lonely time and I made a few friends, but I knew I was there to work on myself. And I did that with a vigor I hadn't shone in months. I was determined to get better, and with that good attitude I left the residential treatment facility in a month.

Once again I resurrected my journal writing and realized again that it was the writing that helped me through the treatments. Why did it take so long to get back to writing? A very good question. The depression changed me. It changed how I dealt with my symptoms. When I started writing again, it was like the sun started shining and the flowers bloomed. But, it didn’t last long.

Shortly thereafter, I went into a downhill spiral so fast and deep it even scared me. I attempted suicide by taking pain medication. After I realized what I had done, I called my husband, and he had me call 911. While I waited for the emergency vehicles to arrive, I knew I had not made a good choice. My husband arrived after the police, and he was able to better explain what had happened and that I had Bipolar Disorder. The police wanted to Baker Act me immediately, but my husband and psychiatrist talked them out of it, explaining that my psychiatrist could better treat me at his hospital. So, off I went to the ER for six hours of observation. Then a quick trip home to pack a bag, as my psychiatrist was admitting me into his hospital.

I spent four days there, getting medication changes that helped along with behavioral changes. Mind over Matter. Writing all of my thoughts into my journal. Filling the pages.

And I learned that I do matter. And I learned to figure it out with my mind that I matter.

Best of all, I created a living document called a Wellness Recovery Action Plan. It's become my GO TO for anything that triggers me. It gives tips on how to respond to those triggers, and what action to take. It's taken on a life of its own. I keep it in a binder with my medication list, my physical history list, which includes allergies, immunizations, diseases / disorders, and all surgeries and procedures. Best of all it has the dates of every psych hospitalization. At the back, I include my will, my living will, and a durable power of attorney for health.

If anyone has questions on how to create your own, don't hesitate to ask. I'd be happy to help and point you in the right directions.

So, whether you are running on full, half a tank, or empty, your WRAP can be there for you and help you find the answers and especially guide you.

The depression didn’t stop there.

I attempted suicide again. This time I meant it. I took pills and wrote in my journal about the effects on my body while the pills worked their magic. No one was home with me at the time. I prayed to God why I had no purpose in life and what was my purpose suppose to be. God answered me. He said that I was to help others. Help them with journaling and teach them to learn to heal with writing like I taught myself and how I’m going to learn from others. I was floored. I wanted to live. God told me to call my husband. It was a hard call to make. But, my husband was strong. He had me call 911 and said he’d be home shortly. He was home by the time the ambulance and police arrived. He contacted my psychiatrist and my doctor took over my care. He didn’t let them Baker Act me, he had me transferred to another hospittal.

My psychiatrist finally found a diagnosis for my continuing depression. I was medication resistant to anti-depression drugs. I had only one option left.

ECT treatments. Scared and fearful. I prayed about this treatment. I talked it over with my husband. We decided to go for it. I was prepared for 11 treatments in total, I had nine treatments. I can tell you that I am a new person. I no longer take anti-depressant medication. I have not been depressed for nearly three years.

But, through it all, one thing stayed true.  My writing. Words Heal.

I learned new writing techniques to help me through even the hardest issues. I learned to add imagery. It worked so well that I now use it all the time.

It worked so well, that now I want to share it with you. This is it. I'm using it in my writing here and I use it in my journaling workshops and in my journaling process at WRITECOVERY.

Have a blessed day and thank you for taking this journey with me. I'm in recovery and stable, going on three years. It's been wonderful. 

Best of all, I'm still here to share with you. And, I'll continue to be here. 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

National Depression Screening Day - October 9, 2014

Even though the day is set for Depression screening, we want you to be aware that the organizations are set up for a range of mental illness disorder screenings and are setting up in a number of communities.

How can your community help, you ask? Well, I'm so glad you did. Click here. You will find answers to all of your questions and more.

It's time to take action. It's time to step up and get ready. This is the week. Wear Green.  Here are some tips from the NAMI page:

Going Green

Help shine a light on mental illness in your home, online or in your community. This year NAMI is coordinating with hundreds of people, landmarks and organizations across the country to get everyone to “go green.”
Here are all the ways you can show your support!


  • Change your Facebook cover photo.
  • Make your Facebook/Twitter profile picture green.
  • Share information about mental health. Here are some sample posts to get you started
    • On Twitter:
    • What are you doing to educate and reduce #stigma for #MIAW
    • “Mental illness is not a partisan issue. It can strike anyone at any time. #MIAW”
    • “Checking in” on a friend or loved one can go a long way in making a difference in their life, it can help save a life. #MIAW
    • Almost 50% of children aged 8-15 with a mental illness received no treatment last year. We must do better. #MIAW
    • Mental Illness affects 1 in 4 American adults. You are not alone in this fight. NAMI is there to help.
    • On Facebook:
    • Mental Illness affects 1 in 4 American adults. You are not alone in this fight. NAMI is there to help.
    • Just signed up for a NAMIWalk! Who wants to join me?
    • Strength of Us offers an online community for young people to connect and share information about their experiences with mental health problems
  • Participate in an online discussion or chat.
  • Connect with NAMI on Facebook and Twitter and see what we have going on.
  • Share your story of hope on YANA.
  • Spread the word about what you’re doing on Pinterest.

In Your Community

  • Join the Green Light Initiative. Across the country, buildings and landmarks are lighting up green to show support and raise awareness for mental health. The green light is meant to start a conversation and inspire hope.
    • Utilize connections you may have in your community to get buildings illuminated in your town or city. When in doubt reach out to PR or media departments of organizations or companies or contact local officials.
  • Host an event or get together with friends, family or neighbors.
  • Hand out or sell green ribbons for people to wear.
  • Contact local businesses and government to see about placing green ribbons throughout your community on trees, light posts, columns and in other public spaces.

Make a Statement

  • Wear green. Be creative; don’t just limit this to your everyday wardrobe. Wear green shoelaces, a green suit, dye your hair green or paint your fingernails.
  • Initiate a "Wear Green Day." Encourage your workplace and friends to pick a day during the month to wear green to spread the word about Mental Illness Awareness Week.
  • Wear a green ribbon. Pin it on your shirt or on your bag or backpack.
  • Learn about new research, advances in treatments and coping strategies for living with mental illness and share what you find out with your family and friends. There might even be some simple ideas that you can pass along that can be incorporated into an everyday routine.
  • Share your story of hope on You Are Not Alone.
  • Participate in a NAMIWalk—and wear green!
  • Share your photos of your activities using #MIAW on twitter or facebook or submit your pictures to YANA (You are not Alone) or on our Facebook page.

 Learn more by going here

Here is another tip: BLOG about Mental Illness. Get online and tell your story. Spread the word. Spread it far and wide. I've blogged about having Bipolar Disorder for nearly ten years and I won't stop. 

Want to hear something funny? I had a psychiatrist appointment this morning. I usually keep my calendar on my phone with my appointments set with an alarm to tell me when to leave. However, I just bought the iPhone 6 and migrated all of my appointments, a little "glitch" of iPhone 6 doesn't migrate the "alert" setting. So, I wasn't reminded today that I had a psychiatrist appointment. So, I happily went about setting up tomorrow's blog and the next day's blog for Mental Illness Awareness Week, not realizing I was getting later and later for my appointment for my psychiatrist for Bipolar Disorder. Joke on me? NOT! I looked at my computer, saw that it was only 5 minutes until my appointment, I wasn't dressed yet, got on the telephone, called the doctor's office, begged to be fit in, "somehow" and hurriedly dressed, patted my dog goodbye as I tossed him a treat, and rushed out the door. 

How's that for "mental awareness?", eh?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding

NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) sets this time aside every year during the first week of October to celebrate Mental Illness and help educate the rest of the public. I want to do my part as well. I'm blogging for mental illness.

And I especially want to take part in today's session which is the "National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding" on October 7th, 2014.

I thought I'd provide some help for our spiritual leaders, provide some scriptures and end on a prayer for all of us.

Thanks for NAMI for providing the tools we can use.

Bible Verses to Calm an Anxious Heart

Know that the Lord has set His faithful servant for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. - Psalms 4:3

Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me  - Psalms 7:1

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds. - Psalms 9:1

Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. = - Psalms 16:1

I say to The Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing." - Psalms 16:2

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings. - Psalms 17:8

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. - Psalms 28:7

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord, may Your love and faithfulness always protect me. - Psalms 40-11

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. - Psalms 56:3

In God, whose word I praise -- In God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? -- Psalms 56:4

Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. - Psalms 62:8

They will have no fear of bad news, their hearts are steadfast, trusting in The Lord. - Psalms 112:7

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves in my life. Psalms 119:50

Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I trust Your commands.  - Psalms 119:66

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. - Psalms 139:23

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life. - Psalms 143:8

Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. - Proverbs 3:5

Creating Supportive Congregations
For individuals living with mental illness

1.     Develop a Leadership Team

a. Get permission from clergy or leadership to develop a Mental Health Ministry (MHM)
leadership team. Don’t expect staff to take the lead, but do ask for support from them.
Include pastoral care ministries staff and lay leaders on your leadership team.

b. Become familiar with materials and resources from the following websites:

c. Formulate short- and long-term goals and activities for ministry to and with individuals
living with mental illness. Find out what the congregation has done and is doing and what
it needs and envisions. Keep plans practical, relevant to current needs and feasible,
depending on your volunteer and financial resources.

2.     Educate and Equip

a. Equip leadership staff and lay leaders with information and referral lists for local
mental health care providers, social service agencies and support groups in order to help
parishioners get treatment and assistance. Ask your local National Alliance on Mental
Illness (NAMI) Affiliate for assistance in creating the list.
b. Familiarize the clergy and leadership team with materials for services from the
websites listed in section 1b above. Service planning materials include sermon topics,
illustrations, readings, poems, songs, ideas for newsletter articles and bulletin inserts.
c. Plan a small group meeting for adults or youth.
   1. Invite a guest speaker from NAMI or a mental health expert from the community.
   2. Use a book, DVD or film with facilitated discussions using books and videos from one of the     websites above.
d. Add or recommend books for the congregation’s library.

3.     Promote Friendship, Inclusion and Support Ministries

a. Meet one-on-one (like Stephen Ministers, but less formally).
   1. Be accepting, friendly and genuinely interested in the person living with mental illness.
   2. Visit them and get to know their dreams and needs.
   3. Invite them out to church activities, small groups or family gatherings or to the bowling alley, a movie or a walk in the park.
   4. Offer transportation and other reasonable help within your own limitations.
   5. Send cards, listen, encourage and assure.
   6. Share your own humanity, but not your opinions or advice.
   7. Ask if you can touch or hug; be mindful of others’ physical comfort zone.
   8. Earn their trust over time; expect ups and downs.
b. Encourage church-sponsored friendship, inclusion and support ministries.
   1. Train greeters and ushers how to welcome persons with disabilities of all types.
   2. Sponsor a social club or drop-in center for persons with disabilities.
   3. Recruit volunteers to assist in finding support services (e.g. transportation, legal, medical, financial assistance, food or housing assistance).
   4. Offer support groups for persons/families touched by mental illnesses. Ask for Faith Communities Education Project [FaithCEP] patterns and guidelines or ask your local NAMI Affiliate for referrals.
   5. Offer volunteer work that is realistic but meaningful, providing supervision if needed.
   6. Offer employment opportunities in the church or community.
   7. Provide opportunities to serve and contribute talents on committees, in music groups, as ushers or readers of scripture, or through drama and other art forms.
   8. Offer respite care to families who cannot leave their loved one alone.
   9. Open your doors to local NAMI support groups or other mental health support group organizations.

4.     Engage in Community Outreach and Advocacy

a. Sponsor a health fair and include mental health providers and your NAMI Affiliate.
b. Contact your local NAMI Affiliates or mental health association to see if they are planning events or have resources.
c. Offer meeting space to your NAMI Affiliate for their education courses, including Family-to-Family, Peer-to-Peer and NAMI Basics groups.
d. Join your local NAMI Affiliate and participate in their advocacy work. Alert your social justice committee or congregation to current legislation that will impact health and social services, housing, insurance parity and other issues.

Ideas for a Service of Prayer for Healing and Hope

Scriptures (Can be read in unison or divided and read responsively)

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103: 2-5

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my god, in whom I trust.” …He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91

A Meditation or Homily (Can be offered by a clergy or lay person)

A Song of Response Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Candle Lighting Ceremony (Seven candles are prepared on a table; people read the bold sections)

We light this candle of Hope to dispel the darkness of discouragement and despair.
Let us pray for those who have serious illnesses of mind and body. (Silent prayer)

We light this candle of Grace to dispel the darkness of guilt, blame, and loss.
Let us pray for those with broken lives and broken relationships. (Silent prayer)

We light this candle of Truth to dispel the darkness of stigma and misinformation.
Let us pray for ourselves and others as we learn more about their journey.
We light this candle of Justice to dispel the darkness of inequities and injustice. (Silent prayer)

Let us pray for those who are incarcerated and untreated with mental illness.
We light this candle of Faith to dispel the darkness of doubt and discouragement. (Silent prayer)

Let us pray for those who have lost hope and are in despair.
We light this candle of Peace to dispel the darkness of trauma and torment. (Silent prayer)

Let us pray for those who have experienced violence or abuse.
We light this candle of Love to dispel the darkness of indifference and judgment. (Silent prayer)

Let us pray for ourselves, family members, care givers, health professionals, church
leaders and lay counselors. (Silent prayer)

Prayer Vigil (People write short prayer concerns on a small card received when they entered. While quiet music is played or sung, clergy and/or lay leaders are standing at various locations around the room, ideally with kneeling rails. Without being directed by ushers, those who wish to receive individual prayer go to one of the leaders, handing them the prayer card. The leader whispers a short prayer only heard by the congregant. Anointing with consecrated oil is optional. Music continues until no one else comes forward.)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Commitment:

O God of Love, Light and Peace, thank you for spiritual healing that goes beyond the physical, for eyes to see beyond the here and now, for faith to claim your promises. We pray for all who dwell under the shadow of illness –mental or physical.

Give us courage to face the challenges and darkness that come uninvited, unpredictably. Make us willing to serve in ways we never envisioned. Through us, shine your light of faith into the lives of those who have lost hope. Open our minds to learn more about their needs
and dreams. Make us channels of your love and mercy, to the praise of your glory. Amen.


Anabaptist Disabilities Network -

Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, Commission on Mental Illness and Faith and Fellowship
for People with Mental Illness -

Episcopal Mental Illness Network -

Jewish Community Mental Health -

Mental Health Ministries -

Mennonite Media-

Mental Illness Education Project -

Muslim Mental Health –

NAMI FaithNet

One Mind Mental Illness Ministry –

Pathways to Promise

Presbyterian Church Serious Mental Illness Network -

United Church of Christ Mental Illness Network –

Virginia Interfaith Committee on Mental Illness Ministries (VICOMIM)


Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets, Craig Rennebohm with David Paul (Beacon Press, 2008)
For those who endeavor to better understand and minister to homeless people who live with mental illness, Souls in the Hands of a Tender God will challenge complacency and stereotypical thinking. Rennebohm and Paul's poignant stories demonstrate the value of each person and illustrate what true companionship looks like. Chaplain Rennebohm's own experience with serious depression has bequeathed him with deep insight into human frailty and God's gracious presence during difficult times. With or without the companion discussion guide,
Conversations, this book is excellent for personal reading or adult education classes, especially those in urban churches.

Caring for the Soul (R'fuat HaNefesh): A Mental Health Resource and Study Guide, Richard F. Address, Editor (URJ Press, 2003)
Caring for the Soul is a sensitively written resource for persons of all faiths. It presents a variety of suggested scriptures, sermons and services in the section titled, "How May We Use Jewish Liturgy to Address Mental Illness in Our Communities?" Other important questions are addressed in other chapters. Clergy and worship planners would benefit from adding this to their library.

A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,
Gary E. Nelson (Cascade Books, 2007)
Gary Nelson's storytelling gift, along with his experience as a pastoral counselor and father of a teen who lived with clinical depression, certainly hold the reader's attention. In addition, Nelson provides compassionate insights and practical suggestions for navigating the stormy years of teen depression. With depression affecting many of our young people, this book is a must-read for family, friends and others. It will give youth workers, church personnel and teachers a deeper knowledge of the illness, sympathy for the teens and families and sensitivity toward what helps and what hurts.

Wresting with our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness and the Journey to Wholeness
Nancy Clare Kehoe, Ph.D.(Jossey-Bass, 2009)
How do you bridge the great divide between spiritual beliefs and the behavioral sciences? If you are like Dr. Kehoe, you become a Catholic nun and a Harvard psychologist. Wrestling with our Inner Angels recounts the journeys to wholeness of the men and women in a religious support group facilitated by Dr. Kehoe in a psychiatric day treatment program in Cambridge, Mass. By recounting their stories, the author allows us to feel their pain, victories and the value of their spiritual pilgrimage in their rehabilitation. The culmination of nearly 30 years of work, the book confirms what many individuals living with mental illness and their family members already know—and what many clergy and health professions need to incorporate into their daily practice: that discovering the religious beliefs and values of the people living with mental illness is often the key that unlocks the door to their recovery. This book is recommended for either personal reading or group discussion.


“People living with mental illness are our neighbors. They are members of our
congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If
we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish
from which those cries of help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go
away. Because it will not go away and because of our spiritual commitments, we
are compelled to take action.” −Rosalynn Carter

One in four Americans will experience a serious mental disorder in his or her lifetime, including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and severe anxiety disorders.

Mental illnesses are no-fault, biologically based brain disorders which cause disturbances in thinking, feeling and/or relating. Persons living with these disorders deserve the dignity of medical treatment and a wide range of supportive services from mental health care providers and caring congregations.

Though the majority of individuals living with mental illness can successfully be treated, stigma and misinformation continue to be significant barriers to treatment:

·      One-third of the homeless are mentally ill.
·      Ninety percent of persons who die by suicide have had a diagnosable serious mental illness.*
·      There are more people with serious mental illnesses in jails and prisons than in state mental institutions.


Churches, temples, mosques and faith communities reach 70 percent of the American population each month. In the U.S., clergy outnumber psychiatrists by nearly 10 to one and are more equitably distributed geographically than health professionals.

The church can fight against misinformation, indifference and ridicule of people living with mental illness by educating both youth and adult congregations. Families affected by mental illness are challenged by some serious faith questions, just as others going through experiences that ask much of them. Educated faith communities can offer emotional, relational and spiritual counseling to persons touched by mental illness.

Education and awareness are valuable keys to shattering the silence and barriers that surround treatment.  By dispelling myths, ignorance and fear, congregations liberate persons touched by mental illness to share their struggles, seek help, regain hope and set out on a new course toward recovery.

 Recovery is possible. Faith communities can play a significant role in the healing process by bringing solace and a sense of wholeness. Learn all you can; do all you can. Take action; speak out; advocate.

*National Institute of Mental Health. (2009). Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention. July 14, 2009.


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 individuals living with mental illness, 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. You walk with us on our individual journeys through life. You see the ignorance and injustice that divide and separate persons living 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 include 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.

--Reverend Susan Gregg-Schroeder

Please can you do something positive in your church community this week to help spread the word about mental illness and recovery?

If you need spanish materials I can provide those as well, just ask. NAMI has the resources.

I am here to help.