Multi-faith initiative launched to support people touched by mental illness
By Emily Saltzman • JFCS Community Services Director
There have been conversations across the Twin Cities for many years on how faith communities can foster support and guidance for individuals and families touched by mental illness. Some faith communities have developed standalone mental health services, while others have developed caregiving services, offered educational programs on mental illness or drafted prayers of healing.
This conversation continued in October through an event organized by a multi-faith committee. The focus was “learning from each other” – how faith communities can be more inclusive of individuals with mental health conditions. The interfaith dialogue drew more than 130 people, including clergy, chaplains, congregational staff and lay leaders, and others interested in mental health issues.
The event – which was presented by Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis (JFCS), Jewish Family Service of St. Paul (JFS), and Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church – was held at Mt. Olivet. Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and other groups co-sponsored the event and it featured a moving speech from Melody Moezzi, Iranian-American activist, attorney and author of Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life, which is about her mental health journey and the involvement of her faith community.
Attendees were encouraged to discuss why they were interested in this event and what work their faith community was already doing to lift the stigma of mental illness. More than 60 people indicated that they were interested in continuing this dialogue. The planning committee is holding a meeting on Jan. 11 to brainstorm ideas for future events. This meeting is open to anyone interested in helping to plan future events. We are strongly encouraging folks from Muslim, Buddhist and multi-faith communities to join us in this planning.
The evaluations also gave attendees an opportunity to share what work their community plans to do to continue fighting mental health stigma. These statements showcase the commitment of many faith communities to address this issue. We’ve included some below and hope you find them as inspiring as we did!
- “Remind ourselves that many issues are ‘invisible,’ and this applies to all programming”
- “Attend as many meetings held by faith community to become better versed on how to be inclusive of those living with a mental health condition”
- “Increase visibility of resources and welcoming atmosphere”
- “Talk about my own mental illness a little bit more in my teaching”
- “Be more aware of mental health struggles and offer a listening ear to people who struggle with their mental health”
- “Additional training for volunteer staff who are our receptionists”
- “Reach out to folks who self-isolate”
- “Educate parishioners in church”
Thank you to everyone who attended this event and we welcome all who will join us in the future.
For more information about meeting times and location, please connect with Emily Saltzman, JFCS Community Services Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 952-542-4809.