Faith and Mental Health Quarterly
May 4, 2021
Mental Health Month:
Opportunity to Raise Awareness, Provide Support
Across the nation, people from all walks of life are commemorating Mental Health Month, an annual observance that takes place each May. Mental Health Month allows us to raise awareness of mental health issues, encourage those living with mental illness, and advocate for policies that support people impacted by mental health conditions and their families.

There are numerous ways to get involved:

  • Share your story. Let others know it’s possible to manage a mental health condition.
  • Support others. If a friend or family member lives with a mental health issue, let them know you’re there to support them. 
  • Reflect on your own mental wellness. Reach out for help if you need it.
  • Get involved. Participate in a fundraising event or volunteer for an organization that supports mental wellness.
  • Share information about mental health resources through social media or by posting flyers in your community.
  • Learn. Read a book or attend a webinar to expand your understanding of mental health issues.
Mental Health Month Resources
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) You Are Not Alone campaign focuses on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay through NAMI’s blog, personal stories, videos, digital toolkits, social media engagements and national events.

According to NAMI, “Together, we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives — a nation where no one feels alone in their struggle.”
The Mental Health America (MHA) Tools 2 Thrive provides practical resources to improve mental health and increase resiliency regardless of a person’s situation. Download the toolkit, which includes sample messages for social media and printable handouts on such topics as adapting after trauma and stress, dealing with anger and frustration, and taking time for yourself.

According to MHA: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.”
The Pathways to Promise Mental Health Ministry Toolkit for Faith Communities offers ideas for faith communities that want to make a difference:

  • Actively welcome individuals and families who face mental illness, addictions, and trauma
  • Become a community of healing and a center of support for healing and recovery
  • Offer wellness services: companionship, small groups, and concrete resources such as referrals, shelter. housing, and employment
  • Advocate for understanding in your neighborhood and for an effective community mental health system

Pathways to Promise offers these activity ideas:

  • Join with a handful of others in your faith community at least one or twice a year to share your
  • experience, concerns, and resources
  • Become a team, a task force, a committee, or core group meeting regularly to foster education,
  • hospitality, community, service, and advocacy with individuals and families facing mental health issues in their lives
  • Create an annual program or activity across the life of your congregation in mental health ministry
  • Work with neighboring congregations, the wider community of faith, community allies. and mental health care providers to do together what none of us alone can accomplish
Advocate Aurora Faith and Health Partnerships offers these mental health bulletin inserts:

Finding Hope After Trauma
After a group of youth carjacked her at gunpoint last July, Alyssa Blanchard was so traumatized, she feared going outside, even to pick up a package from her front porch.

“For a long time, it was difficult to be around children who weren’t related to me,” said Alyssa, a teacher and native of Chicago’s Southeast Side. “I wouldn’t leave my home. I felt violated and alone.”

But Alyssa would find hope, thanks to the police officers from the Chicago Police Department 4th District who continued to check on her, and the caring individuals she would meet over the coming months.

Among them: Lashondria “Shonie” Purnell, a trauma crisis counselor and faith community nurse with Advocate Aurora Health, who showed up at Alyssa’s doorstep after the carjacking. “When I first met Shonie, she was very kind, Alyssa recalled. “When a police officer asked me to identify the juveniles, I had a panic attack, but Shonie kept me calm.”
Alyssa Blanchard
Shonie introduced Alyssa to a prayer support line and a virtual resiliency program, sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health, that she facilitates.

“I knew I needed to try the groups,” Alyssa said. “Oftentimes, we are expected to ‘get on with it’ after experiencing trauma. The resiliency class was extremely helpful in helping me get my feelings out and process what happened.”

“I have met some great people,” she added. “Even though I have never met them face to face, I know them. I never would have met them if it hadn’t been for what happened. I have a new support group, in addition to my family and friends.”

As part of her healing process, Alyssa spoke to a group of children in a youth crime deterrence program about the impact the carjacking had on her. “By sharing my story, I hope they can make better choices for themselves and have a positive future,” Alyssa said.

Before participating in the prayer line and resiliency group, Alyssa had a hard time eating and sleeping. “I was not in a good place,” she said. “But now, I realize God gave me something I never knew I needed, and that God is looking out for me.”
'Love from a distance'
Thanks to the Member-to-Member outreach program at two Kenosha, Wis., congregations, members have received encouragement and a new sense of connection.

Sue Quever, faith community nurse at Lord of Life Lutheran Church and St. Mary's Lutheran Church, began the program in the spring of 2020 in response to the pandemic.

“So many of our members have turned inward and experienced depression due to the pandemic,” Sue said. “We wanted to help members feel connected, despite not being able to gather for worship and other congregational activities.”

Care ministry team members check in on members by phone or safely distanced in-person visits. They pray with members and check on their support system, asking, “Do you have someone who loves you and cares for you?” or “How can we help you?” Ministry team members who learn of a concern, can then ask the member if they’d like a visit from the pastor or faith community nurse.

The ways volunteers have reached out include:

  • delivering Sunday School materials to younger families
  • offering “sidewalk sacrament” – holy communion – and the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday
  • delivering Valentines cookies and mini Christmas trees with spiritual messages
  • sending spiritual music and other resources to support members recovering from COVID-19 or experiencing other challenges
  • providing transportation to help members keep doctor appointments
Above: A care ministry team member receives a Valentines Day greeting from a member's dog.

Below: Care ministry team members delivered Christmas trees in church mugs to members.
Sue wears several different hats to make Member-to-Member reality. She is a “dispatcher” - a liaison who links volunteers with members; a “mentor” who offers advice and guidance, and “trainer” on such issues as confidentiality.

“The program provides love from a distance,” Sue said. “Friendships have happened. The program has brought congregants together in a new way.”

To learn more about Member to Member, contact Sue at
I Was Scared To Talk About My Mental Health
by Tega Orhorhoro

Courtesy of NAMI

Growing up, mental health was not something that was talked about in my family. We would say that anxiety was a myth, depression was a myth and praying was the answer to all the problems. I would never bring up depression or my mental health because I felt like all I had to do was go to school and get good grades. So when I couldn’t eat or sleep from anxiety, I didn’t know how to articulate how I felt.

Growing up in my African household, we wouldn't bring up feelings of discomfort or depression because the answer was always the same: pray about it. Pray the depression away. This was the mindset I was conditioned to believe when it came to my mental health issues. I was always told to be strong and to never show weakness even when you are experiencing hardships.

My first panic attack was in college. I was a freshman getting ready for finals week, and I was part of a program that was designed to help students during the transition from high school to college. This program cared more about passing grades and external factors than the pressure and stress that would come with the transition and changing expectations. I tried to talk to my mentor about what I was feeling during this time, but those feelings were brushed over many times, and I again felt the outside pressure to ignore and compartmentalize my feelings while focusing on my academic performance.

Mental Health 101: An Islamically Integrated Perspective
Courtesy Khalil Center

The terms mental health, stress, anxiety, depression, self-care and other similar terms are commonly heard these days. They casually come up in our discussions, or are discussed in our classes and social media. There has been a rise in people and organizations promoting “mental health awareness.” What exactly is mental health and mental illness, and how do we understand them within an Islamic context?

Question #1: What is Mental Health?

From an Islamic theological perspective, psycho-spiritual health is directly related to a human being’s ability to actualize their primordial spiritual purpose. All human beings are created to tread a path that will ultimately ensure their salvation in the afterlife and their ability to acquire God’s pleasure. Health is thus, from an Islamic theological perspective, indicated by an individual’s successful ability to remain on this path of worship. Hence any obstacles that obstruct their ability to tread this path is seen as detrimental to human functioning and worthy of attention. This includes psychological, physical or emotional struggles that get in the way of our ability to worship Allāh freely.

More specifically, a holistic perspective on psychological health must be multidimensional as it encompasses our overall health and well-being. This includes:

  • Physical health: diet and exercise, regular checkups with doctors, and hygiene
  • Mental health: Our thoughts. Are they positive, realistic, and functional? Are they helping us complete our day-to-day goals and tasks?
  • Emotional health: Awareness of feelings–both positive and negative–and the ability to regulate them in a healthy manner
  • Social/behavioral health: Our relationships and interactions with others are healthy and functional. The ability to accept and enjoy happiness, as well as recognize and resolve conflict
  • Spiritual health: Our connection and relationship with Allah, dhikr (remembrance of Allāh), duā, as well as completing our mandatory obligations to Allah such as prayer and fasting.

When all of these areas are balanced and working in harmony, we can achieve optimal mental health. However, mental health is fluid. We need to regularly and constantly work on finding this balance. Achieving better states in our mental, spiritual, psychological health and maturity is a constant journey that we traverse all our lives.

How prayer can help you cope.
By: Grace Wong

When you think of prayer, you may associate it with an organized religion and automatically dismiss it if you don’t consider yourself religious. But prayer can be applied to any kind of spiritual practice — even if there isn’t a deity involved — and the act itself can benefit your health.

Rev. Kevin Massey, system vice president of Mission and Spiritual Care at Advocate Aurora Health, isn’t a stranger to the benefits of prayer. After working for 7 years in disaster response, including as a chaplain during recovery operations at Ground Zero, he’s seen firsthand the power of prayer in times of crises.

“We’ve long known that spirituality is a powerful tool that people often turn to that help them keep a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose,” Massey said. “In the middle of all the chaos the last few months, many people have turned to familiar spiritual practices, like prayer, mindfulness and meditation. I’ve even heard examples of people who didn’t have a regular spiritual practice prior to now but developed one recently.”

While prayer is experienced differently among practitioners, studies have shown noted health benefits like a decrease of stress and aggression. It has also been a way for people to cope with their current situation, feel a greater connection with a sense of purpose or meaning, a feeling of peace and even lower blood pressure, Massey said.

A new study published in The Lancet suggests that COVID-19 patients are at greater risk for developing mental health disorders, with 1 in 5 receiving a mental health diagnosis within 90 days of infection. These have included conditions such as anxiety disorders, insomnia and dementia.

“This study is interesting, but we do have to take the results with a grain of salt due to the limitations mentioned,” said Dr. Munther Barakat, Director of Behavioral Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.

“It shouldn’t be surprising to conclude patients develop mental health symptoms after experiencing a medical emergency. It’s common for patients to develop PTSD symptoms related to experiencing a medical trauma,” said Dr. Barakat. “ With COVID, the fear of its consequences are so high that just getting testing positive can bring about symptoms. Oftentimes, patients will be focused on healing and getting through it. Once the dust settles and they’ve healed, they begin to experience the mental health effects.”

COVID-19 and its physical and psychological health consequences are still not well-understood. The study was unable to eliminate other potential risk factors for the people involved, but the association between COVID-19 and adverse mental health consequences will continue to be explored.
“As we progress through this experience, we will begin to collect more information about the medical effects of COVID and how it may interact with our mental health. With time, we’ll collect more data,” said Dr. Barakat. “We do know that people have experienced increased depression and anxiety symptoms just simply due to the pandemic. Others have experienced loss and life stressors due to the pandemic.”

Just under one out of every five US adults goes through life with a mental health disorder, from mild to severe illness. For those with these conditions, there are resources available including counseling and medication that can help people live normal and healthy lives. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, you should talk to a doctor.

Are you trying to find a doctor? 
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders.

During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019 (Figure 1).

KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss.

Upcoming Events

May 5, 5:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health and Lake County Opioid Initiative

The intersection of substance use and mental health has been a growing concern for many
years. It impacts all of us in some way or another. Join us to hear how Lake County leaders are working to effect positive change today and for the future.

Topics include:
  • The impact of opioids and heroin and the programs we have developed to help Lake County residents combat this epidemic.
  • How polices can help shape success, and how Lake County’s innovative programs have worked and are working.
  • What we are planning to help and improve our services for the community.

May 7, 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Sponsored by College of DuPage Human Services Program

This virtual symposium will focus on trauma, resistance and addictions. Keynote Speakers:

  • Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP, is a leading expert in the treatment of trauma will provide an overview of complex trauma and its complex aftereffects and provide trauma focused strategies.
  • Fred Hanna, PhD, author and international speaker will provide tools for managing client resistance during these uncertain times. Learn innovative, easily applied, evidence-based, published techniques that have remarkable change potential in resistant clients.
  • Jim Scarpace is the Executive Director at Gateway Foundation in Aurora, Ill. Jim has over 28 years of experience in the mental health, substance use disorder and criminal justice field. Jim will be discussing the COVID pandemic and its implications for those who suffer from a substance use disorder.

This conference will include, at no cost CEUs for LSW/LCSW, LPC/LCPC and CADC

May 10 & 24, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

The second and fourth Monday of each month, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

All are welcome to the Southland Gratitude Room on Zoom. We gather virtually each month to:

Learn about the benefits of gratitude (there are many!)
Support one another and pray together
Share creative and fun ideas on how to live a more grateful life
Enjoy one-on-one conversations and group discussions on a range of topics, such as:

  • the meaning of gratitude
  • how to create sacred spaces for quiet time or meditation
  • the power of living of grateful life

Each Gratitude Room session includes a time of centering/meditation and an opportunity to explore what our sacred texts say about gratitude and living a more grateful life.

May 12, 7:00-7:45 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

Caregiver Laura Townsend will tell her story about how her favorite hobby—scrapbooking—gave her the emotional care she needed while caring for her late husband Brad. This self‐care became Albums of Hope, a local nonprofit that lifts spirits and inspires hope. Laura will share self‐care tips and give you a sneak peek at her Caregiving Planner. A time to engage and share.

May 18, 10:00-3:00 p.m.

Sponsored by ChAPTER (Chicago coalition Around PCOR To Expand community Research)

Join us and other stakeholders virtually to create a common equitable mental and behavioral health treatment and research agenda.

ChAPTER is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary network of local organizations and other stakeholders devoted to the promotion of health equity across the Chicagoland area.

Panelists of the event:
  • Patrick Corrigan, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Wilnise Jasmin, medical director of behavioral health, Chicago Dept. of Health
  • Jim Poole, chief integration officer, NAMI Chicago
  • Stephen Ruppert, manager, clinical best practices, Thresholds
  • Ashley Scott, patient researcher

May 20, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Sponsored by Rahab's Daughters and the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network

The Rahab’s Daughters team works to provide education about human trafficking to members of our community. Join us for this upcoming event to learn more about human trafficking and how you can actively take a stand against it.

Rahab's Daughters Executive Director, Sharmila (Sam) Wijeyakumar will be leading the conversation.

May 20, 10:00-10:45 a.m.
Meets on the third Thursday of the month

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

The Partners For Faith & Health Network was created by Advocate Trinity Hospital and South Suburban Hospital to bring together leaders of all religions, community members, and people in the health field.

We want to work together to advocate and promote lifestyles and activities that prevent and/or support the management of chronic disease in the Southland community. Together, we learn about health topics and discuss how we can improve the health of the people in our community.

Begins May 25, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Six Monthly Sessions on the 4th Tuesday of the Month, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
(May 25, June 22, July 27, Aug. 24, Sept. 28, Oct. 26)

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

Let’s face it. It’s been a tough year. You may be questioning what it means to be a religious and spiritual leader during times of stress and crisis. You may feel like you are being asked to walk on water, lead through a wilderness and do the impossible.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Educators from Advocate Aurora Health invite you to an opportunity to reflect on our times and what it means to be a leader. Sessions will allow you to reflect on your practice as a faith leader, get ideas and input, try something new and continue learning, feeling and moving into these issues thoughtfully and safely.
This program will use the CPE model of action, reflection, and adjustment, but previous CPE experience is not required.

Moving Forward in Hope

May 25, 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Fourth Tuesday of each month, from 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Sponsored by the Archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness

The Archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness is pleased to offer "Moving Forward in Hope," a monthly series of prayer, connection, and hope. Our goal is to create a safe place for those living with, or those caring for someone with, mental health concerns to come together to pray and share with one another.

We know connection is paramount to mental health and well-being. These virtual meetings will cover relevant topics and be held on the fourth Tuesday of each month.

For questions, and to register, contact Deacon Tom Lambert at

  • Wednesdays, through December 29
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

“What’s Next?” is a weekly resilience program that combines evidence-based scientific studies with encouragement from faith-based resources. Participants will gain tools to:

  • build resilience amid the difficulties of life
  • learn from their experiences
  • use the knowledge they gain to nourish themselves and the world around them

Attend any or all sessions. LaShondria Purnell, RN, a faith community nurse with Advocate Aurora Health, facilitates "What's Next?" and looks forward to learning alongside you.

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

The Prayer Support Line allows us to come together in unity to release our burdens, receive comfort and express our gratitude to God for holding us close during this pandemic.

The Prayer Support Line is a place where we can join with others in prayer for health, healing and spiritual care with the expectation that God will meet us and provide us with encouragement.
Faith and Mental Health Specialist Services Available for Faith Communities
Amy McNicholas, LCPC, Faith and Mental Health Specialist and Manager of Faith and Health Partnerships, Illinois, is committed to supporting the emotional well-being of faith communities through a variety of programs and services:

  • Individual clergy consultations
  • Informational webinars (topics to fit your needs)
  • Online support groups
  • Virtual Mental Health First Aid
  • Emotional well-being resources

Please email or call if you need support: or 630-929-9103.

Behavioral Health Care Resources
Advocate Health Care

Hotlines and Locator Tools
Support Hotlines

  • NAMI Chicago Helpline: 833-NAMI-CHI
  • NAMI Greater Milwaukee Helpline: 414-257-7222
  • Free Emotional Support line: text “talk” to 552020, and a counselor from a local community mental health center will call you within 24 hours. 
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Bright Star Community Outreach Trauma Hotline: Chicago-based toll-free number: 833-TURN123

Locator Tools

See information on mental health resources and mental health organizations by clicking here.
Additional Reading from Advocate Aurora Health health enews
Observances and Commemorations
Faith and Mental Health Quarterly provides updates on mental health resources, events and news to support the well-being of people in your congregation and community.

Please contact Cindy Novak if you have news to share, topics you'd like addressed or if you have questions or concerns. Thank you!
Faith and Health Partnerships | AdvocateAuroraHealth

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