Continuing the Conversation

by Rev. Alan Johnson

I have received several poignant emails and messages that I would like to share with you to expand the conversation about the shooting tragedy, faith and mental health.

“The world is crying for healing and spiritual renewal. I hope and pray to make a difference.” 

“I hope there is more attention brought to treating mental illness and increasing resources for treatment as the nation mourns, and yet I also worry this will be yet another event that continues to increase the stigma of those with mental illness, which could decrease people asking for the mental health help they need… which become a moot point if that help is not there anyhow…  There really are no good solutions, but maybe in time, things will keep shifting towards what will really help everyone.”

“(I was) reminded to turn inward in prayer and meditation.  I am not angry, just traumatized, I think.  Actually, I think my psyche has been traumatized.  All, weekend I have been looking forward to church today, because I know it will be a time to come together in love and spirit.  As a nation, we have all been traumatized.  Today I plan to let go of the horror and seek forgiveness and compassion, especially for the families who have lost loved ones.  Today, I am going to step out of my own dark thoughts and fears and into the light!  I am going to let go and let God.  I will pray that God uses me as his instrument.  Through God’s grace may we heal.” 

“While we should advocate for better access to mental health service, it is important to remember that people who live with mental illness are not inherently violent. This is a difficult balancing act because on the one hand we need to highlight the lack of access to care, while at the same time we don’t want to perpetuate stigma by scapegoating people with mental illness as ones who are violent.” 

I hope that conversations continue and that out of the conversations comes action, even small steps of listening profoundly to each other; confronting any misunderstanding about mental health challenges; contacting your politicians to break the silence about gun violence; and encouraging your faith leaders to think with you about the issues that have been mentioned above.

Here are some links that can broaden the conversation by helping us see the tragedy from a variety of perspectives:

From a faith-community perspective:

From a parent’s perspective:

From the perspective of people with brain disorders:

If you have found other resources that have offered you insight or that have helped you view the shooting from different perspectives, please let us know.

If you or someone in your congregation wants to learn more about mental health, visit NAMI.org and NAMI Faithnet.

Alan Johnson

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness

Chair of the Board of Directors

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.

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