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Mental Health Week 2017

Mental Health Week in Canada is May 1-7, 2017.  This is a national event to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage others on all issues relating to mental health.  One fifth of Canadians in any year experienced a mental health problem or illness.  In addition, 1.6 million Canadians report their mental health care needs are not being met.  The efforts we make to deal with mental health issues are an investment in the mental wealth of our population.

There still is a great deal of stigma about mental health issues.  Communities of faith can be a means of breaking the silence about these issues because these communities can be a source of hospitality, healing and hope.  A recently posted story of one man’s journey with mental illness and the role of the church for him is found at…

The Congregational Action and “REsponse for Mental Health (CARE) ministry of the Alberta Synod also provides many resources on mental health for congregations to use, which you can find, below. 

National Child and Youth Mental Health Day  is May 7th.  Youth are the future of our nation.  How can we support them and make sure that when they experience a mental health issue they are heard and given the help they need.  It is estimated that about 1 in 5 children or adolescents in the US and Canada may have a mental health problem that can be identified and treated. One in 20 may have a serious emotional disturbance like depression. Such issues severely disrupt the person’s ability to function socially, academically and emotionally.  Suicide is a very serious threat to youth with serious mental health issues. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the 3rd highest in the world.

How can we support the mental health of our youth? We can start by encouraging caring conversations about mental health with our youth.  When 400 young people were asked How would you like to have adults talk to you about your mental health, they had some great ideas.  Caring conversations between youth and adults had these elements:( see

  • Acknowledgement:  “I’m here for you and I validate your feelings or thoughts”, “It’s going to take time”, “ You are important and deserve love and support” You are not your mental illness,” “What you’re feeling is valid”, “We can work through it together”.
  • Praise: “You are awesome”, “I’m proud of you!!” “You’re generous”  “You look great!”
  • Open, Inviting Questions :  “Are you having any trouble with homework?  “How can I help?” “ What do you need right now? “ “Come talk to me,” “ I don’t know what to tell you, but I will always listen and care for you”.  “Let’s get help?”  “Wanna talk about it?”
  • Uncategorized  : “I love you”, “Give hugs”,” Take all the time you need I will be here”
  • Reassurance: “I love you so much.” “I believe in you”. “ If you need space, have it, but I’ll always be here to listen”, “I’m here for you no matter what happens.”

We encourage you to make your homes and congregations safe places to have conversations with youth about mental health issues.

Mental Health Ministries e-Spotlight

Spring is a time of renewal and hope. Spring provides a bridge from the barren darkness of winter to the bright warmth of summer. We are called back to nature as the warmer weather awakens the plants and trees, brings forth hibernating land animals and offers a homecoming to hundreds of migrating bird species. Bern Williams offers this reflection on hope and spring. “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring.”

Our next e-Spotlight will highlight resources to help you prepare for May is Mental Health Month. For persons who want to begin planning early, these resources can be found on our website.

A Day to Remember Those with Mental Illness
Worship Resources for 4th Sunday after Epiphany: January 29, 2017

Cover letter: care-congregational-worship-resources-annoucement
Sermon – Series A: sermon-series-a-mental-health
Service Outline: service-outline-day-to-remember-those-with-mental-illness-2017

C.A.Re Tri-fold Brochure: care-brochure-2016

Get Started Kit  – a list of ideas and resource to use in your congregation to get the conversation started about Mental Health.

Prayers for Hope Booklet July 2016 – A booklet of prayers of hope for persons experiencing the Fort McMurray Fire, 2016

Mental Health Issues for Seniors

The theme of this week for the Canadian Mental Health Association is Get Loud to Maintain Positive Mental Health and Get Loud to Get it Back.  All of us need to speak out loudly to counteract the stigma and discrimination that is often associated with mental illness.   This year CMHA is focusing about the mental health of seniors, one of the fastest growing age groups in Canada.  It is estimated that one in four Canadian seniors has a mental health problem and there is some evidence that this number is increasing.  Depression is the most common mental health problem for seniors. Many times seniors are undertreated for mental health problems.  CMHA suggests this may happen for many reasons:  because their symptoms may be confused with other problems like a physical illness, there may be stigma that prevents seniors from asking for help, seniors may believe that it is too late to do anything, getting to treatment is difficult especially if a senior has mobility issues and service availability and cost are deterrents to seeking help.

Congregations can help a senior who is experiencing a mental health issue.  First of all make sure that visitors to seniors are educated about recognizing mental health issues.  Encourage those who visit in hospitals and homes to take the Mental Health First Aid Course   Did you know that workshops are offered throughout each province and territory in Canada so you can select a time and place that suits your schedule?   There are special workshops for those persons who work with youth as well.

Maintaining positive mental health for seniors has some elements that are common to us all.  Eat well, stay active and get enough sleep.  Supportive friendship networks are also needed to nurture our well -being. Churches have the possibility of offering opportunities to develop such support networks and friendships.  Providing seniors with supportive friends and family members may give them the opportunity to share their feelings and needs.

If a senior does experience a mental health issue there are things that can be helpful.  Finding services and getting to the appointment can be daunting.  It might be helpful to accompany a senior to a medical appointment. Visits to a family doctor should include a chance to share issues about mental health as well as physical issues.  Letting a senior know that he or she is not alone in the journey is important.  Where congregations have regular meetings of senior’s groups, this may offer a setting for persons to share information about mental health and in particular to share successful mental health recovery journeys.

At the recent Congregational Life Event in Red Deer, Walking Together: Mental Health Through our Lifetime, Rev. Prema Samuel presented a workshop on Mental Health Among Seniors.  Prema is the chaplain at Rosehaven Care Centre in Camrose.   Marilyn Bulger also presented a workshop on Harp Therapy.  She is a trained and certified Harp Therapist who works with many groups in the Hinton/Jasper area but in particular with Alzheimer patients and in palliative care. Her services are requested individually or through the health unit. Music, and particularly the sounds of the harp, have a particular resonance for these persons.  She has produced a CD entitled Starblanket ,which is a collection of gentle tunes on Celtic harp for relaxation and well-being. The Congregational Get Started Kit is appended to this resource.

There are many resources that you can gather about seniors’ mental health issues. Today there is also a focus on the needs of caregivers who relate to seniors.…

Martin Turcotte. 2013 Family caregiving? What are the consequences?  Article available on  in section on seniors,care and social support, Insights on Canadian Society and then search article name and author. Free to download.

Mental Health Commission of Canada.  Seniors’ Mental Health Guidelines.

[1] May 2016, CARE resource, ELCIC Synod of Alberta and the Territories

Mental Health Month was created over 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all by Mental Health America. There are now designated times in May for groups to raise awareness and advocate for improvements in research, prevention and treatment on specific mental health issues. To read more from Mental Health Ministries Spring 2017 Newsletter, click here:…