February 23, 2021
Can Just Picking Up a Hobby Help Your Mental Health?

Sometimes the hardest part of a hobby is picking the actual hobby. The research and decision making can be stressful enough.

But according to Dr. Eric Smiltneek, a family medicine and addiction medicine doctor at Aurora Behavioral Health, it is important for your mental health to simply just pick.

“I love hobbies and find great value in their ability to create happiness and overall positivity in one’s life,” said Dr. Smiltneek. “When choosing a hobby, especially in these trying COVID times, pick something that is doable now, something that will bring enjoyment and pleasure to your life in the short term. It doesn’t have to be anything big or majorly difficult or expensive, rather an activity that fills your leisure time with joy and helps you unwind from your daily routine.”

Hobbies can improve mental health and wellbeing. They are great in helping to relieve stress and tension and can lower blood pressure and body mass index. People who enjoy hobbies are less likely to suffer from depression and can more easily find ways to manage uncomfortable emotions.

Drumming 'slows me down and centers my spirit'
By Rev. Michelle Hughes
Illinois Conference, United Church of Christ clergy

I started drumming last summer. I have always loved percussion instruments and thought it would be a fun thing to learn. I called a couple of my friends and asked if they would join me in this endeavor. We began on Fridays in my backyard, so we could social distance. After the first lesson, we were all so excited about how the rhythms spoke to us and how we felt the vibrations through our bodies. It was exciting and it was community building.

Even as we were just beginners, we decided that we wanted to form a group under the leadership of our instructor, Terry Morrow. Our first step was to come up with our individual drumming names, and then a name for our group. My drumming name is Binta which means "with God." We named our group Saphires's Good Vibe Tribe.

Three of the women in the group are clergy, one a church musician.  I couldn't wait to purchase my own drum. Now I have four drums: a djembe, a buffalo drum, a 9 tongue steel drum, and for Christmas a set of bongos (and a tambourine).
Hughes (right) with other members of Sapphire's Good Vibe Tribe
Drumming is a way for me to connect with the world community. Through drumming, I connect to my African Ancestry, my native ancestry, Latin rhythms, and meditative melodies. I now understand why it is used in so many ritual practices. Drumming is very much a spiritual practice for me. It slows me down and centers my spirit, and has given me a wonderful community of women who are journeying with me.
Claretian Associates:
Advancing Mental Health Wellness in South Chicago
Since its founding in 1991, Claretian Associates has carried on a rich and collaborative tradition of responding to the needs of South Chicago and its surrounding communities by providing affordable housing and vital services that benefit the safety and wellbeing of residents and families.

Claretian Associates aspires to create a community that is affordable, safe, and equitable and that fosters a sense of safety and community.

Tending to the mental health needs of residents remains an important goal for Claretian Associates, as well. The South Chicago Neighborhood Network (SCNN) is a collaborative of community partners that Claretian leads. Through a process of community conversations, SCNN identified mental health support as a primary concern and focus for its work. Advocate Aurora Health partners with Claretian and the SCNN to meet this goal by providing a Faith Community Nurse and Community Connector who develop relationships with faith communities to support clergy and equip congregation members to care for each other and people in the neighborhood. They help present Mental Health First Aid workshops, and the “Addressing Trauma and Empowerment” symposium, which covered such topics as the History of Systemic Racism, Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing, and Actions for Social Justice. The AAH Faith Community Nurse also hosts a Prayer Line, Resilience Group, Grief Support, and classes on diabetes prevention and management.

Thank you to Claretian Associates and the other community stakeholders that comprise the South Chicago Neighborhood Network, as you advance wellness (including physical and mental health) and improve quality of life for residents in South Chicago.
March is Self-Harm Awareness Month
Courtesy: NAMI

People often keep it a secret, but the urge to self-harm isn’t uncommon, especially in adolescents and young adults. Many overcome it with treatment.

Whether a person has recently started hurting themself or has been doing it for a while, there is an opportunity to improve health and reduce behaviors. Talking to a doctor or a trusted friend or family member is the first step toward understanding your behavior and finding relief.

What Is Self-Harm?
Self-harm or self-injury means hurting yourself on purpose. One common method is cutting with a sharp object. But any time someone deliberately hurts themself is classified as self-harm. Some people feel an impulse to cause burns, pull out hair or pick at wounds to prevent healing. Extreme injuries can result in broken bones.

Hurting yourself—or thinking about hurting yourself—is a sign of emotional distress. These uncomfortable emotions may grow more intense if a person continues to use self-harm as a coping mechanism. Learning other ways to tolerate the mental pain will make you stronger in the long term.

Self-harm also causes feelings of shame. The scars caused by frequent cutting or burning can be permanent. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs while hurting yourself increases the risk of a more severe injury than intended. And it takes time and energy away from other things you value. Skipping classes to change bandages or avoiding social occasions to prevent people from seeing your scars is a sign that your habit is negatively affecting work and relationships.

April is Counseling Awareness Month

National Board for Certified Counselors: Find a board certified counselor in your area.

American Counseling Association: a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization that is dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession. Founded in 1952, ACA is the world's largest association exclusively representing professional counselors in various practice settings.

The Therapy Directory: a website and online service from Psychology Today that can assist you in finding a counselor.
To all of the professional counselors who empower individuals, families and groups to accomplish their mental health, wellness, education and career goals: Thank you!
Upcoming Events

Feb. 23-March 20

Sponsored by Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation

Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) is providing opportunities for the greater Chicago community to confront and heal from the traumas of racism by participating in racial healing circles.

Recurring racial healing circles are an opportunity to create and build trust between participants and communities that will often serve as the foundation for other work related to racial equity and healing – e.g., changing inequitable and systemic laws and policies. Registrants must commit to attend each week to honor the process and respect those who have committed to change with you.

Feb. 27, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Sponsored by Living Abundantly Ministries

Would you like break? A few moments of refreshment & renewal while you experience a spiritual practice that draws your heart closer to God?

Imagine yourself….it’s Saturday morning...You are wearing your jammies, with a hot beverage nearby, and experiencing a calming spiritual practice lead by a real person. What a wonderful way to start your weekend! If you are curious about how to accept more of God’s love and peace into your heart and you want to take small steps to regain your physical wellbeing, then we have the perfect gift for you!

Living Abundantly Ministries is hosting an introductory experience over Zoom, and we’d love to see you there!
Savvy CaregiverTM Training Program

  • Tuesdays, 10:00 a.m. – noon, starting March 2 and April 13
  • Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00 p.m., starting April 7
  • Thursdays, 2:00-4:00 p.m., starting March 4 and April 15

The Savvy CaregiverTM training program is designed for people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or a related memory problem. The sessions are offered at no cost via videoconference with available call-in capacity for people who do not have internet access.

Each training series offers 12 hours of training broken up into six, two-hour sessions. To get the most out of the program, participants should plan to attend all six sessions in the series for which they register because one week builds upon the information in the prior week.

To register or for more information Email Victoria.russo@cityofchicago.org or call 312-743-3528.

March 6, 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Intentional Energy 3 - ie3

Whether it is working, mothering, nurturing, or being supportive, most women know what it is like to face everyday stressors and readily step up to the challenges.

In unity we will welcome these challenges and step up in 2021 stronger! It is time to reclaim your own resiliency and take strides to thrive and lead. In unity, we can come together and create our legacy.

​At this conference we will dive into the stories of resilient women of the Bible and contemporary women to explore how these stories can make a difference in our lives. ​This conference is our time to claim and own our resiliency, to take strong strides, to thrive and lead.

March 8, 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Meets the second Monday of each month.

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 and 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.

March 11, noon-1:30

Co-sponsored by The Illinois ACE's Response Collaborative and Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

Exploration of emotional trauma from systemic oppression - using the scientific model of brain-body regulation. Major topics include research on the impact of everyday discrimination on mental and physical wellness and understanding how structural racism and exclusion of sexual and gender minorities are a root of health disparity.
Moving Forward in Hope

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 tlambert@ourlmc.org.
Virtual Exploring Grief Groups

Lake Forest (Illinois)
6:00-7:30 p.m. on Mondays, through March 1

North Shore (Illinois)
7:00-8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, through March 25

Are you or someone you know grieving the loss of a family member, partner, or friend? If so, find comfort and support in our virtual Exploring Grief Groups, available at no cost to participants. Our Exploring Grief Groups provide a confidential, educational, and nonjudgmental environment. They encourage attendees to cope with their loss and continue to find meaning in their lives. These groups are facilitated by professional counselors.

To register for Lake Forest group, contact Denise Kitanovski at 847-446-6955, ext. 422 or dkitanovski@samaracarecounseling.org.

To register for North Shore group, contact Joellen at 847-446-6955, ext. 419 or jhosler@samaracarecounseling.org.

  • Wednesdays, through April 28
  • 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 from 8:30-9:00 a.m.
  • Thursdays from 6:00-6:30 p.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 for Advocate Aurora Health, 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: amy.mcnicholas@aah.org 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.
Mental health articles 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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