Notes from 10/27/2018 Mind Health Inclusion Workshop

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Mental Health Challenges in Our Faith Community

(This file also available as a downloadable PDF from a link below.)

Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, Saturday, October 27, 2018; 9:00am to 12:00pm

  • Many of us have faced or will face mental health challenges personally or in those we love.

  • As a faith community, we are a unique resource for those who are struggling.

  • The Care & Counsel and Worship & Ministry Committees working with Jeff Perkins organized this workshop.

  • This was a day for us as a faith community to consider our response to mental health issues with the help of Linda Rich, an outside facilitator.

Purpose of the Day

  • Opportunity for discussion of the needs of Meeting members, attenders, visitors and community

  • Reduce stigma about “mind health” issues

  • Come to a better understanding of mind health in order to recognize our fears and move toward inclusion

  • Identify skills and resources needed for greater inclusion.


  • Identify issues and concerns

  • Discuss mind health needs of the meeting community, including members, attenders and visitors

  • Outline process for next steps (including resources, skills/toolbox, and ways to bring our work back to the rest of the Meeting)


Quaker worship and processes pose some unique challenges around mental health issues including:

  • How do we know when community members are struggling?

  • What support can we offer and what are the limits of what we can do?

  • How can we be inclusive and welcoming to those with mind health challenges?

  • What is the right balance between being supportive and inclusive and keeping our community safe and comfortable for all?

Why is mind health an issue in society today?

  • Increased isolation, fewer connections, screens

  • Rapid communication of ideas, e.g., via social media

  • Fear of difference; “Us vs. Them” mentality

  • Mind health concerns about American leadership

  • Pervasive media showing violence against others

  • Increased anxiety about the world

  • “Terror” is unpredictable and irrational; we feel powerless and have misconceptions about our true risk.

The Mind Health Spectrum

  • Non-functioning >>>>> Thriving

  • Nirvana >>>>> Psychosis

  • Isolation>>>>> Connection

  • Resilience >>>>> Inflexibility

  • Mind health is dynamic in lived experience.

  • People have different realities.

Who is especially vulnerable to mind health issues?

  • Older people

  • Caregivers

  • Victims of Violence / Trauma

Societal Stressors

  • Joblessness

  • Homelessness

  • Poverty

  • Racism

What do faith communities uniquely have to offer?

  • Calm, therapeutic atmosphere

  • Examination of morality

  • People come voluntarily

  • Spiritual cure, spiritual “hospitals”

  • Opportunity for social connection with few demands

  • Welcoming / Anonymous

  • Communities for support, growth, God

  • Belief of equality, inclusion, respect

  • Faith as a resource

  • Less competitive, more supportive

  • Obligation to care for others

How do we know when people are struggling?

  • Anxiety, extreme behaviors

  • Pressured speech, no talking or changes in talking

  • Financial pressures

  • Changes in behavior or inappropriate behavior, e.g., excessive sex, gambling, spending, eating

  • Over-reactive, inappropriate response to situation

  • Chronic complaints about physical health

  • Emotional flatness, inappropriate to setting

  • They tell you!

  • Not functioning

What does poor mind health look like?

  • Changes in physical appearance, hygiene, weight…

  • Changes in what you know about the person

  • Unintelligible talk

  • Extreme verbal expressions

  • Withdrawing

  • Forced affect – “socialized persona” (faking it)

  • Agitation

  • Loss of eye contact – hiding

  • Unprovoked aggression

What are our fears in responding to someone in distress?

  • Setting boundaries – How far can this go?

  • Contagion – Will the problem overtake us?

  • Being ineffectual, not knowing what to do

  • Being intrusive or wrong in our conclusions

  • Feeling responsible

  • Disrupting peace

  • Being always on duty (for those who work in the field)

  • Making it worse, causing harm

  • Rejection

What are our needs as individuals and as a community?

  • Appropriate boundaries

  • Self-care, balanced with others’ care

  • Safety (social and physical)

  • Peace of mind

  • Having a plan and standards in place

  • Knowing how to respond

  • Communication about what we know or need

  • Opportunities for learning, resources for more information

What are our hopes?

  • Preparedness / Having a plan

  • Purposeful, known inclusiveness

  • Proactively healthy

  • Continuing education

  • Expand responsibility to more people

  • Be a safe place for people to come and safe for our community (ask ourselves when we mean “comfortable” when we say “safe”)

  • Be flexible and capable of handling the situation

  • Feel confident we know what to do

  • Be alert and not alarmed when something happens

What are our limitations/challenges?

  • Need for perfection

  • Having the right information / knowledge

  • No point person to take charge

  • Loose organizational structure

  • Fluid population of attenders

What messages to we want to give? (e.g., welcoming and inclusive, safe, comfortable)

  • Do these compete, conflict?

  • How will we make them clear?

  • How will everyone know?

  • What can this look like?

  • How might we undermine ourselves?

This is the work of Next Steps…

What can we offer?

  • Listening with compassion, advice, process, one-on-ones, referrals.

  • Can those who attended the Mental Health First Aid session help here?

What can our work here today do?

  • Reduce stigma,

  • Convene group(s) to do the work.

  • Share what we learned (e.g., in newsletter, adult class)

  • Make Care & Counsel’s presence known and available.

  • Review plans across committees.