Recently Redeemer has launched an initiative for conversation and education surrounding the topic of mental health within our congregation and community. The response has been enthusiastic and widespread. I invited individuals who have a particular interest in the topic to let me know so that I can develop a group email list. So far, over 80 people have responded. (Please email The Rev. Caroline Stewart at should you wish to join.) It is exciting to hear the ideas and needs that are coming forth.

A first step is to offer a Mental Health First Aid Workshop to the congregation. This is an 8 hour course, divided over 2 days, that covers the current state of mental health in our country followed by in depth education about depression, anxiety, psychosis, dementia, eating disorders and substance abuse. The cost is $20 for the textbook. Each workshop will need a minimum of 6 but no more than 12 people. The schedule is as follows:

  1. Tuesday March 6 (10-2) and Wednesday March 7 (10-2).
  2. Friday March 23 (2-6) and Saturday March 24 (10-2)
  3. Friday April 20 (3-7) and Saturday April 21 (10-2)

If you would like to sign up, please email me with the date you prefer.

This past week I ran a pilot workshop and the following participants are willing to speak with you about their experiences: Nancy Bowen, Betsy Willett, Patterson Lacy, Norie Olsen, Susan Alexander, Joanne Tetrault, Ann Gavin, Ruthie Cromwell, and Margaret Thompson. I asked them to give me a summary of their experience. A sampling of their responses follow:

Lots of information…ingesting…sharing with love…focus on wellness…expect the unexpected…the beginning of a journey I will continue learning as much as possible about mental health while using the Mental Health First Aid book as a guide and resource. I plan to listen to those around me more intently and less judgmentally. I am curious to discover where this new path of mental health awareness will lead me.

 It was an eye opening course that gave me an insight into the scope and impact of mental illness.

The course taught / reinforced appropriate methods of interaction with individuals experiencing mental illness in some way. I would encourage everyone to take it. The textbook is a wonderful reference tool. Skills learned are appropriate for interactions with anyone.

Gratitude….for being able to be comfortable with other parishioners about mental illness/health.  As you know for years I have carried the sense of void into our church where we did not talk about parents of children or folks suffering with schizophrenia or other illnesses.  It was lonely.  It was hush, hush.  Going to a N.A.M.I. group was not the same as sharing within the healing context of the church with each other.  N.A.M.I. was helpful for how to deal with specific behaviors.


Heaviness….for those confronting painful issues in their or family life….issues that are/were present but not spoken about. I am pondering ways we can keep connecting/sharing….also strengthening (like naming the demons!) in the context of our “narrative”, as David would say.   And my mind kept thinking about the homeless in the city and their issues, the people all around us with suffering with unspoken issues….We are all alike…we are connected, so we can become more understanding of each person.

I found this workshop to be a valuable vehicle to expand my horizons, shake up some long held beliefs, and to bring forth from me my willingness to explore personal beliefs and experiences as well as to be open to vulnerability to reach out to others.   The sanctity of the small group setting was a gift for learning. 

This class gave me a good and comfortable understanding of the numerous mental health illnesses that affect so many.

It explains ways to reach out to someone who may be suffering and reinforces the words so wisely spoken: “Whatever you do don’t do nothing.”

What the workshop meant was more than I thought it would. I was sure it would heighten my sensitivity to mental health issues and, I hoped, give me some basics on how best to relate to folks with these issues. I was especially interested in Depression because the symptoms of Depression are just about identical to the symptoms of those who are grieving. They are in a state of depression. Also, my mother suffered from depression. That part helped a lot as hoped, but continuing on through the whole galaxy of mental health issues really whetted my appetite to expand my sensitivity and ability to relate to them, as well. I will continue to read and click on other resources. But it turned out to mean something more that I can’t quite articulate yet. I think I was a part of something special, something that could be developed and fine tuned into a service and resource for the parish, and beyond. We were staggered by the scope and range of the problems, the symptoms, the possibilities of wellness.

I think those reflections from those who completed the workshop speak for themselves…..both the value of the experience and the great need. I look forward to continuing the conversation on this important subject. Mental Health at Redeemer: Let’s Talk About It; Let’s Learn About It.”