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My friend, author and chaplain Craig Rennebohm, wrote the following piece for the Pathways to Promise newsletter. He has graciously given me permission to share it here.

We are most infinitely tender as human beings. In our three pounds of brain are trillions of connections active over the many moments of our existence with one another and upon this earth. The forming of our senses, the emergence of feelings, the development of language, thought and ideas, the shaping of skills and abilities, the discovery of our calling and purpose, the finding of faith, and the growth of our souls invites a gentle nurture.

What we are and who we become rests in part upon the intricacies and functions of our mind, in its physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions.

May has been designated “Mental Health Month.” Our religious traditions follow a calendar organized by the richness of our histories, scriptures and deepest practices. Our special “times” lift up the great themes of birth, freedom, confession, reconciliation, salvation, community and eternity.

Mental health is not a particularly religious term. But the concern for wellness, for healing and recovery, and for the effects of illness and disease are part of spiritual care. It has never been easy for individuals suffering from brain disorders to find place among us. Often persons struggling with a mental illness, addictions, trauma or other severe and persistent mental health challenges have been stigmatized and marginalized. We fear what is different, and turn away from what we don’t understand.

Mental Health Month is a time organized by individuals and families, care providers and community leaders to address stigma, build knowledge and create more compassionate communities. There is no particular request or requirement of us as believers, religious leaders and communities of faith. I invite you simply to do one thing this month in solidarity with sisters and brothers who face overwhelming experiences in and affecting the brain.

Let us learn more. Let us commit to nurture a life-long “healthy mindedness.” Let us be centers of welcome for those most fragile and vulnerable. Let us serve the healing process, and support the movement of recovery in our neighborhoods and land.

There are times to stand against the ways of the world. And there are times to stand in the world at the points of greatest pain and isolation, and companion one another with the deepest of love and care.

Pathways to Promise is a community of individuals, congregations, local collaborations and national faith partners focusing on mental health ministry and care. We are in service year round. May is a time special when we can celebrate common ground with our mental health neighbors.

Hear a person’s story. Invite a family to speak. Gather a small group for conversation. Welcome a peer support counselor, a nurse, doctor or social worker to share in your midst and thank them for their healing work. Set up a literature table. Make prayer, preach a sermon or homily, read and discuss a text, a piece of mental health wisdom, open your soul quietly, be available to the beloved stranger.

Question from Mark: What is your community or church doing to recognize Mental Health Month?


I'll answer my own question. Coping with Depression Workshop: A free presentation for individuals with depression, caregivers and those who want to increase their understanding of depression will take place on Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Fairway CRC, 1165 44th Street, Jenison. Keynote speaker: Cindy Freeney, LMSW. Panel discussion will follow. No registration necessary. For more information call 616-662-0368. Sponsored by Fairway CRC, Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns Ministries, and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Mental health month gives us oportunity to remember the many mentally and cognitively challenged human beings that languish in our prisons. Prison staff often do not have the training and resources to adequately care for these individuals. After they have, as it is put, paid their debt to society these released prisoners are doubly stigmatized and labelled with a prison record/status of ex-con, making it harder for them to be integrated socially and to find meaningful relationships or work. We remember that all human beings, absolutely all, are precious in God's sight, and the church is called to do justice to this according to the biblical mandate of love and justice for the poor and marginalized..  

Mark Stephenson on April 28, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Henk, thanks for your comment. It's painfully true that many people with mental illness end up in our prisons in Canada and the U.S. Sadly, when the large institutions were closed and former residents encouraged to "live in the community," many of them ended up in the streets.

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