By Kathy Naman
As a psychotherapist, I knew of INMI from my participation in wonderful educational events over the last few years. The content of each program was excellent but what intrigued me at each event was the warmth and heart in the conference environment. That warmth inspired me to join the INMI board.
As a psychotherapist, I see the wounding that can happen in the context of faith communities as well as the love, support and inclusiveness. People who have been spun out of community when it has been communicated implicitly or explicitly that they would not be suffering if they were in proper relationship spiritually. Or folks who have found medication to be life saving, told that medications should not be necessary. People who get a distinct message that their differentness is disruptive and not welcome. People who long to connect within spiritual community but feel that in order to do so they must present themselves smiling, hiding their struggles. People who simply feel invisible.
And on the flip side, I have seen the myriad ways spiritual connection, practice and community can nourish and be a significant part of recovery. Faith communities that are a safe haven, compassionate clergy and congregations who welcome and embrace those struggling with mental illness and their families. As I become more acquainted with INMI, I find myself reflecting on core components that promote the flourishing of all members in a faith community
Many years ago I attended an experiential workshop at a nearby college. The presenter was sharing his wisdom regarding ritual from his own life growing up in a village in Africa. What do human beings in community long for; what do communities provide to its members? The presenter took us through a three part ritual. I have never forgotten these three elements:
To be seen.
To be acknowledged as having a role in the community.
To be nurtured.
These ritual gifts were manifested:
Part 1: we as a group simply looked into each others eyes as we wandered in our community. We literally took time to see one another.
Part 2: we appreciated and applauded each other for the gifts we brought and the jobs we did in our community. Each person or group stood and was recognized.
Part 3: involved being held within a circle of community members with loving attention, then being escorted back into the community to be received with rousing recognition as your name was joyfully spoken aloud.
Whatever the faith tradition, this is strong spiritual medicine: being seen, acknowledged and nurtured. As I reflect on my leap into INMI, I recognize these qualities in that lovely warmth that magnetized me at their events. They are palpable. I think the success of efforts at the intersection of faith and serving those with mental illness, ideally, is what is offered to every member of the community.
Kathy Naman, MA, LPC
INMI board member
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.