Looking back at 2014: Sprouting seeds

by Joanne Kelly

Looking back over the last year gives me hope.

When we started the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness in 2007, very few people were talking about the intersection of faith/religion/spirituality and mental health — just a few brave pioneers holding small conferences that brought together local mental health professionals and faith community leaders. These visionaries were the Johnny Appleseeds of their day.

In 2014, the seeds they planted sprouted all over the country. Conversations about mental health and faith/religion/spirituality sprang up from coast to coast. Here are some of the conferences and events INMI participated in or sent representatives to in 2014:

–  In February, we sent a representative to Houston, Texas, to attend a conference called “Walking Together: Christian Communities and Faithful Responses to Mental Illness.”

–  In March, we sent a representative to California to “The Gathering,” a meeting between religious leaders and mental health experts sponsored by Saddleback Church (Rick and Kay Warren), the Roman Catholic Diocese and NAMI Orange County.

–  Also in March, we sent a representative to a conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for the “Connecting Faith Resources with Mental Health” conference sponsored by Faith Connections on Mental Health.

–  In July, one of our board members participated in the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership Steering Committee meeting, a joint venture between the American Psychiatric Association and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition.

–  In September, we presented a poster session at the NAMI Annual Convention on starting spiritual support groups in faith communities.

–  Also in September, one of our board members was invited to speak at the APA’s Institute on Psychiatric Services in San Francisco, as part of several modules that explored the intersection of faith and mental health.

–  In October we sponsored a conference locally for faith community leaders called “Expanding Your Toolkit on Mental Health.”

–  In November, we sent a representative to Chicago to attend “Being Present: A Faithful Response to Mental Illness,” a symposium for healthcare and ministry professionals.

What gives me hope is that thousands of people attended these conferences and seminars and they were held all over the country. More and more people are recognizing that faith community leaders and mental health professionals can and should be working together to support congregants with mental health issues. More and more congregations are realizing that they can and should be welcoming, inclusive and supportive of their members who have mental illnesses.

This is how change begins. Join INMI in 2015 to help us nurture as many of these seeds as we can.

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.