NAMI conference brings mental illness out of the shadows
By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — A special conference for faith leaders who serve families in the Fort Wayne and surrounding area will be held at the International Ballroom on the campus of Indiana University, Purdue University in Fort Wayne (IPFW) on Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Health of Fort Wayne (NAMI) and IPFW Behavioral Health and Family Studies Institute (BHFSI), the “Out of the Shadows, Conference 2015: Serving the Mentally Ill Within a Faith Community,” will bring together leaders of different faiths and mental health professionals to hear the keynote address by Sarah Griffith-Lund, vice president for seminary advancement at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and local speakers Dr. Jay Fawver, psychiatrist, Rev. Clinton Faupel of RemedyLIVE, Alice Jordan-Miles, assistant director of the IPFW Behavioral Health and Family Studies, and Rev. Anthony R. Pettus, Sr., senior pastor of the Greater Progressive Baptist Church in Fort Wayne.
Statistics show that one in four families include a member with a mental illness. To bring light to this issue, the conference speakers will cover pertinent topics including, mental illness — the reality of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; steps to starting a mental health ministry; ways in which faith leaders offer support and counsel; and suicide prevention — crisis intervention and ongoing care resources available to faith communities. Panel discussions will cover “Legal Issues and First Responders” and “Mental Health Service Providers.”
Keynote speaker Sarah Griffith-Lund believes breaking the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness will benefit many. Her keynote will be personal, she relates. “My sharing will be based on my personal testimony about my family’s struggle with severe and chronic mental illness throughout my childhood and early adulthood. It is a story of resilience, faith and hope that testifies to the power of God’s presence to carry us through even the most difficult times.”
She will speak to common myths surrounding mental illness as well as offer practical steps to create healing communities for mental health.
“This conference is important,” she notes, “because mental illness is so common that it impacts faith communities and clergy. Coming together to learn about mental health and what our community can do to offer support to people with mental illness and their loved ones will be a powerful way to make our communities healthier places to play, learn, worship and live.”
Griffith-Lund holds several degrees, including a master’s in social work and a Doctor of Ministry, and was ordained into Christian ministry in 2002. She has served as pastor in several churches as well as regional minister in Florida. She is the author of “Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family and Church,” and blogs regularly at www.sarahgriffithlund.com and HuffingtonPost.
Alice Jordan-Miles will be speaking on the topic, “Mental Health Ministry — A Toolkit for Congregation: Equipping Communities of Faith to Share the Journey of Healing and Recovery with Individuals and Their Families Facing Serious Mental Illness, Addictions and Trauma,” and believes the conference is essential to faith leaders in their daily ministries.
“As a practicing Catholic myself it is important to me that my faith leaders know how to provide education about mental illness being a treatable illness instead of a moral or spiritual shortcoming,” she says, adding, “Members of ministry have a crucial yet daunting job of guiding parishioners through many of life’s challenges — including mental health issues. This important and trusting role offers an opportunity to help people at risk of suicide in ways that even family members or mental health professionals cannot. By listening to people and getting them the mental health they need, clergy and lay persons can make a life-saving difference. Therefore, it is critical that those in ministry understand and are knowledgeable about the resources available in their community.”
Sponsored by The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, D.O. McComb and Sons Funeral Homes, Parkview Hospital, The Lutheran Foundation, St. Joseph Behavioral Health, Park Center, Inc., and Dockside Services, the conference invites faith leaders, social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors and others to heighten their understanding of mental illness, develop mental health ministries and gain awareness of available community resources.
Conference cost is $50. To register, visit wwwlearn.ipfw.edu and click on “conferences” or call 260-481-6619. Registration deadline is Nov. 2. CEUs and APA credits are available upon request at no extra charge.