Meet Catherine Boyle…our new Director of Mental Health Ministry!

We’re delighted to welcome Catherine Boyle to our ministry team! Catherine will be assuming a key leadership role in overseeing our efforts to support churches in mental health outreach and inclusion. Her primary responsibilities will include…

  • Increasing awareness and implementation of mental health ministry in churches across the U.S. and beyond.
  • Developing strategies to connect families affected by mental illness with churches prepared to welcome and support them.
  • Developing funding streams to support Key Ministry-sponsored mental health ministry initiatives and operations.

Some specific projects Catherine will be working on will include…

a. Developing relationships between Key Ministry and individual churches, denominations and like-minded organizations with interest in mental health ministry.

b. Launching and facilitating  a Mental Health Ministry Video Roundtable – similar to the Disability Ministry Video Roundtable we host on a monthly basis for the special needs ministry community.

c. Providing consultation services to churches seeking to implement and/or improve mental health ministry. Catherine will serve as the initial point of contact for churches seeking training, consultation or resources from Key Ministry related to mental health ministry.

d. Developing resources for individuals called to serve as mental health liaisons in their local churches, along with resources for churches seeking to establish ministry positions for mental health liaisons.

Catherine has been impacted by mental health issues her entire life, having experienced her own struggles with anorexia, bulimia,anxiety and depression. She authored Hungry Souls: What the Bible Says About Eating Disorder, and helped launch a ministry home for women with eating disorders. In 2015, Catherine founded Outside In Ministries, focusing on how the church can minister to and with people with mental health issues.

Professionally, Catherine served as an executive at a large U.S. bank. She has led various church and community ministries, and has been interviewed for her ministry work on radio, television and in online magazines. She has a BBA in Accounting and an MBA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Catherine lives in Richmond, Virginia and has been married to Barney since 1994. They have two children (Jack, 21 and Natalie, 18). Catherine spends free time sewing or doing needlework and working out at the local YMCA.

Please join me in welcoming Catherine to our ministry team. She may be reached at catherine@keyministry.org.

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Are you a pastor or ministry leader searching for resources to better understand how to support children, adults or families affected by mental illness in your church or in your community? Check out Key Ministry’s Mental Health Resources page, containing links to video, articles and topical blog series designed to help you minister with persons with common mental health conditions. Also available through the website are a free, downloadable mental health ministry planning tool designed to accompany Mental Health and the Church, along with links to recommended books, like-minded mental health ministry organizations, relevant research, sermons addressing mental illness, social media resources and a compilation of stories from families affected by mental illness.

Posted in Key Ministry, Mental Health | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Why are children’s hospital ERs becoming flooded with suicidal kids?

A study published this past week in the journal Pediatrics shed light upon the growing mental health crisis among American youth. Between 2008 and 2015, the study documents a nearly three-fold increase in the percentage of pediatric hospital emergency room visits related to suicidal thinking or behavior. Here’s the study abstract:

OBJECTIVES: Suicide ideation (SI) and suicide attempts (SAs) have been reported as increasing among US children over the last decade. We examined trends in emergency and inpatient encounters for SI and SA at US children’s hospitals from 2008 to 2015.

METHODS: We used retrospective analysis of administrative billing data from the Pediatric Health Information System database.

RESULTS: There were 115,856 SI and SA encounters during the study period. Annual percentage of all visits for SI and SA almost doubled, increasing from 0.66% in 2008 to 1.82% in 2015 (average annual increase 0.16 percentage points [95% confidence intervals (CIs) 0.15 to 0.17]). Significant increases were noted in all age groups but were higher in adolescents 15 to 17 years old (average annual increase 0.27 percentage points [95% CI 0.23 to 0.30]) and adolescents 12 to 14 years old (average annual increase 0.25 percentage points [95% CI 0.21 to 0.27]). Increases were noted in girls (average annual increase 0.14 percentage points [95% CI 0.13 to 0.15]) and boys (average annual increase 0.10 percentage points [95% CI 0.09 to 0.11]), but were higher for girls. Seasonal variation was also observed, with the lowest percentage of cases occurring during the summer and the highest during spring and fall.

CONCLUSIONS: Encounters for SI and SA at US children’s hospitals increased steadily from 2008 to 2015 and accounted for an increasing percentage of all hospital encounters. Increases were noted across all age groups, with consistent seasonal patterns that persisted over the study period. The growing impact of pediatric mental health disorders has important implications for children’s hospitals and health care delivery systems.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Gregory Plemmons of Vanderbilt University speculated that bullying, decreasing age of puberty for females, social contagion, less resilience and less stigma leading to more reports of suicidal thoughts were possible contributing factors to the reported increase.

I’d like to suggest that other contributing factors may be at play and challenge our readers to consider how they might contribute to a healthier and more supportive culture for kids at risk of developing suicidal thinking and behavior.

Technology. This study examined data from 2008-2015. Can you think of any innovation that became available around that time that transformed the ways in which teens view themselves and communicate with one another? By 2015, nearly three quarters of teens owned smartphones, 92% accessed the internet daily and nearly a quarter of teens were online “almost constantly” according to this study from the Pew Research Center. I’d argue there are at least three ways in which technology contributes to increasing rates of suicidal thinking and behavior:

  • Technology provides kids with the tools to publicly humiliate one another on a scale that was never before possible. Social media and texting has also facilitated a level of vulgarity in electronic communication that didn’t exist when most interactions occurred either face to face or over the phone.
  • Technology intensifies the propensity common among many kids to view themselves much more negatively than their peers and reinforces their sense of inadequacy and social isolation. Kids now have raw data quantify their relative popularity through the number of “likes” and comments on their Instagram posts and other social media platforms.
  • Technology exposes many kids to sexually explicit material online, which increases the likelihood of sexual behavior offline. More on that below.

School. There was an unmistakable pattern in the study data, of no surprise to those of us in child and adolescent psychiatry indicating more kids come to emergency rooms with suicidal thinking or behavior in the fall and spring, and fewer kids present in the summer. The highest rates were reported among older teens, with a 27% average annual increase between 2008 and 2015.

I’d argue that high-stakes testing in schools along with the extreme pressure kids are under to perform well enough to get accepted into their colleges of choice and to earn enough scholarship money to attend their colleges of choice, superimposed upon the increased potential for peer conflict while school is in session are all significant contributors to the higher suicide rate. We saw a huge uptick in the number of anxious and depressed kids in our practice following the 2008 stock market crash as many families had large chunks of college savings wiped out while tuition and fees continued to escalate much faster than the rate of inflation.

Family Composition/Structure. According to this study in The Lancet, kids who grow up in single parent households when compared with those in two-parent households are at more than double the risk of developing a mental health disorder during childhood or attempting suicide. The number of children growing up in single parent households continues to rise, and a minority of American children live in homes together with two parents in their first marriage. This statement isn’t a criticism of the single parents, divorced parents, grandparents or foster parents who heroically raise children in difficult circumstances, but we’re going to see more and more kids with serious psychiatric issues as fewer and fewer grow up with a mother and father who are married to one another.

The Declining Impact of Christianity. I’ve historically seen lots of kids in my practice with profound unhappiness who wished they were dead, but were reluctant to take their own lives out of fear for the eternal consequences of their actions. As more and more teens are raised in non-Christian families or families with no religious affiliation, I’d hypothesize that more teens are now less afraid of suicide than in the past.

The Sexual Revolution. While it is true that the percentage of American teens who are sexually active has been relatively stable over time, it is also true that public health officials are either oblivious to the links between early sexual activity and suicidal behavior or deliberately ignore the available research for political or public policy reasons. Furthermore, sexual activity among U.S. teens is highly correlated to suicidal behavior resulting in the need for medical attention, especially among youth from sexual minorities. And among the millennial generation represented in the Pediatrics study, the rate at which they identify as LGBT is more than double that of any previous generation.

  • Overall, students who experienced sexual contact with the same or both sexes are approximately over three times more likely to have been seen by a doctor or nurse following a suicide attempt compared to students who had sexual contact with the opposite sex only and over twelve times more likely to have been seen by a doctor or nurse following a suicide attempt than students with no sexual contact.
  • Boys who experienced sexual contact with the opposite sex only were seven times more likely to have been seen by a doctor or nurse following a suicide attempt compared to those with no sexual contact.
  • Girls who experienced sexual contact with the opposite sex only were more than three  more likely to have been seen by a doctor or nurse following a suicide attempt than those with no sexual contact.

So, what should adults who care about the emotional well-being of vulnerable youth do to reduce the risk of teens in their lives ending up in a hospital emergency room?

Responsible adults look after their children during their time online. In a country where adults are inclined to call social services when they see an unsupervised kid on the playground we seem to think it’s OK to allow our kids unfettered access to environments filled with predators, pornography and openly hateful peers. Ignoring your child’s online life is no different than trusting them and a member of the opposite sex to hang out in their bedroom with the door shut.

Avoid words and actions that unduly add to the pressure kids experience at school. If you’re a Christian parent, do you believe that God has a plan for your child’s life? If that plan involves attending an Ivy League college or some other prestigious school, do you believe God is capable of providing them access to the school and the financial means of attending? How much does your teen see you worry about their academic performance and future plans? What does your worry communicate to them?

Take your responsibilities as a spiritual leader seriously. While most of the research isn’t specific to kids, faith appears to be a protective factor against suicidal behavior. We also know that religiosity in teens is a predictor of their ability to delay the onset of sexual activity.

This is purely anecdotal, but a couple of months ago I was speaking with a colleague who recently accepted a position in which they were providing ongoing treatment to a population largely composed of kids who had recently been discharged from local psychiatric hospitals. Of the first fifty kids they met with, one came from a family that was actively involved with a local church.

Familiarize yourself with the risk factors for suicidal behavior in teens and don’t be afraid to ask your teen how they feel! It’s always a good idea to ask when you see signs of depression or suicidal behavior, even if you feel uncomfortable. Be prepared to take the following steps if a teenager you love is thinking of suicide or serious self-harm.

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Are you a pastor or ministry leader searching for resources to better understand how to support children, adults or families affected by mental illness in your church or in your community? Check out Key Ministry’s Mental Health Resources page, containing links to video, articles and topical blog series designed to help you minister with persons with common mental health conditions. Also available through the website are a free, downloadable mental health ministry planning tool designed to accompany Mental Health and the Church, along with links to recommended books, like-minded mental health ministry organizations, relevant research, sermons addressing mental illness, social media resources and a compilation of stories from families affected by mental illness.

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Key Ministry’s video training series on Mental Health and the Church

Our team is pleased to announce we’ve completed a library of training videos designed to accompany and support Mental Health and the Church, Key Ministry’s book on including children, teens, adults and families impacted by mental illness at church.

The series of fourteen short videos (each is approximately ten minutes in length) is intended to serve as a resource to pastors and ministry leaders seeking to develop a mental health inclusion strategy within their churches.

The videos roughly correspond to the chapter outline in the book. The first two videos describe why intentional mental health inclusion ministry is necessary and address the ways in which mental illness is different from other types of disabilities supported at church. The third video introduces seven common barriers to church participation associated with mental illness. Videos four through six introduce the seven broad mental health inclusion strategies proposed in the book, and videos seven through thirteen discuss the ways in which the inclusion strategies may be used to overcome the barriers to church attendance, including:

  • Stigma
  • Anxiety
  • Self-control (executive functioning)
  • Sensory processing
  • Social communication
  • Social isolation
  • Past experiences of church

The final video segment describes the tools and resources available through our ministry and other like-minded ministry organizations for churches wanting to become more intentional about welcoming and including individual and families affected by mental illness into worship services and other church activities.

To access the video series, simply click this link to the page on our website where the videos are housed. In addition to the training videos, we also have made available an informational page on the book, recommended books and resources for mental health inclusion, a guide to other mental health ministry organizations, research pertaining to mental illness and church involvement, sermons in which the topic of mental illness is addressed, helpful social media resources and stories from individuals and families about their experiences of attending church with a mental health condition.

Our team hopes these resources will be helpful to your church as you take the next step in developing your mental health ministry. If you need further assistance from our team, feel free to contact us and let us know how Key Ministry can help you launch or grow your ministry!

Special thanks to the video production teams of First Christian Church in Canton, OH and Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, OH for helping to make this video training series possible!

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In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

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Join Kelly Rosati, Amy Simpson, Kay Warren and myself for a Twitter chat on youth mental health

Since 1949, the month of May has been officially designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. This year our ministry is honored to join with HHS Center for Faith and Opportunity (@Partners for Good) along with three of the most prominent mental health advocates in the Christian community for a special event to discuss ways in which faith and community leaders can best support kids with  mental health issues and their families and help point faith leaders and families to available resources.

I’d like to invite our readers to join with me, along with Kelly Rosati, Amy SimpsonKay Warren and others on Tuesday, May 8th at 2:00 PM Eastern time for a Twitter chat designed to encourage pastors, ministry leaders and key volunteers to consider how they can be involved in addressing the epidemic of mental illness in children and teens. Some of the  questions to be addressed will include…

  • What are some key facts that pastors, ministry leaders and influential church members need to know about children, teens and mental health?
  • How can faith leaders be a voice for compassion and care for youth struggling with mental illness?
  • Where can church leaders learn more about what they can do to address mental health among our youth?

Here’s how you can join us:

The easiest way to take part in the interactive conversation is to go to CrowdChat on the day of the event and enter the hashtag #Aid4YouthMH in the search box on top of the homepage. You can also follow the tweets by entering the hashtag in the search box on the top of your Twitter page.

Even if you’re unable to join us, you can help support the cause by sharing this post with your senior pastor and children’s, student or family ministry pastor or director, or by posting on your own social media platforms and sharing with friends.

Hope to chat with you on Tuesday, May 8th at 2:00 PM Eastern!

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Are you a pastor or ministry leader searching for resources to better understand how to support children, adults or families affected by mental illness in your church or in your community? Check out Key Ministry’s Mental Health Resources page, containing links to video, articles and topical blog series designed to help you minister with persons with common mental health conditions. Also available through the website are a free, downloadable mental health ministry planning tool designed to accompany Mental Health and the Church, along with links to recommended books, like-minded mental health ministry organizations, relevant research, sermons addressing mental illness, social media resources and a compilation of stories from families affected by mental illness.

 

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Why Jess Cummings came to Inclusion Fusion Live

Editor’s note: I’ll be writing more in the next week or two about our recent Inclusion Fusion Live conference, but there’s one story from last weekend I can’t wait to share.

Mary Schordock is a long-time member of our church who was serving as a volunteer at the conference. We had a large team of volunteers who were ferrying guests back and forth from the conference to their hotels and to the airport. Mary told me about a young woman she was assisting with transportation who for her birthday asked her family for a plane ticket from Seattle to Cleveland so she could be with us for the conference. I was so touched that Jess Cummings made such an effort to join us that I asked her to do a video describing why she came. She preferred to do a guest blog.

I believe I can speak for our entire ministry team in saying we were incredibly encouraged that God is using our blogs and resources to encourage and inspire folks like Jess who are called to disability ministry and to guide her into community with her brothers and sisters in Christ who share similar passions! Here’s Jess:

When I learned that Inclusion Fusion would be a live event instead of an online video conference, I was immediately interested. As more details were posted on the web site, I knew I needed to be there. I was ready to do whatever it took to get there, but my family stepped in and sent me to Inclusion Fusion Live as my birthday present.

The church experiences of people affected by disability is a topic about which I am quite interested, and not just because I am a Christian who happens to be blind. I have spent a lot of time talking with other adults with disabilities; we share stories, both amazing and challenging. While my experiences, and those of my friends with disabilities contribute to my perspective on church life accessibility, my biggest motivation for involvement in this movement is my students. I teach children with visual impairments as a profession. I want them to have access to churches that are intentional about involving them in all aspects of church life.

It was almost in indescribable experience to spend time with people who are doing disability ministry work. There is something about being with people who “get it.” These people know disability comes with challenges. I learned a lot, directly from parents about the kind of support that is helpful, versus what has been hurtful or problematic in the past. At the same time, the pervading spirit of the conference was that the church has a unique view of disability to offer the world because of Jesus. The message wasn’t news for me, but to be with others who were so passionate about this idea was a profound experience.

I’m not sure what my involvement in disability ministry will look like. In any case, I am grateful to Key Ministry and this conference. Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration.

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Why church is difficult for persons on the high end of the autism spectrum

April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month. and Monday, April 2nd has been officially designated as Autism Awareness Day. In my blog posts this month, I’d like to call attention  to a critical need that has been greatly overlooked in the North American church. We need churches committed to welcoming children, teens and adults on the autism spectrum of typical to high intelligence and affording them opportunities for using their considerable gifts and talents to advance the mission of the church.

Nearly half of the one in 68 children and teens identified with autism spectrum disorders have measured intelligence in the normal to high range (IQ >85), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. What gets in the away of them being part of the church?

The challenges they experience are quite similar to those common among persons with a primary mental health disability. We have lots of outstanding ministry models for persons on the autism spectrum with intellectual disabilities, but far less in the way of resources for those with more subtle disabilities. We know that persons on the high end of the autism spectrum are at substantially greater risk of experiencing one or more mental health conditions compared to the general population.

One study of adolescents reported a prevalence of comorbid psychiatric disorders of 74%. A recent study examining psychiatric comorbidity in young adults reported 70% had experienced at least one episode of major depression, 50% had experienced recurrent depressive episodes, and 50% met criteria for an anxiety disorder. In general, children and teens on the high end of the autism spectrum are more likely to have issues with ADHD and anxiety, while depression and anxiety are more common among adults.

That’s one reason why the inclusion model we put forth in Mental Health and the Church was designed in such a way that it can be applied to persons on the high end of the autism spectrum. Most of the seven barriers to church involvement described in that model for persons with primary mental health conditions also apply for persons on the high end of the spectrum. Let’s look at five…

Anxiety: A core difference in brain functioning in persons with anxiety involves their propensity to overestimate the risk of entering new or unfamiliar situations. Consider the discomfort someone with anxiety might face in visiting a church for the first time. For many on the high end of the autism spectrum, such anxiety is compounded by the real challenges they’re likely to experience in accurately interpreting the reactions they elicit from others.

Executive functioning: Here’s an excellent summary from the Center for Autism Research of some of the challenges persons on the high end of the spectrum might experience as a result of executive functioning deficits. Among the issues they highlight…

  • Planning, organizing, and/or sequencing thoughts and maintaining attention.
  • The appearance of being stubborn because of difficulty “shifting gears” when a change of plans or activity occurs.
  • Difficulty controlling  impulses or regulating behavior when they are upset or frustrated.

Sensory processing: The most current research indicates that 69-93% of children with autism experience symptoms related to sensory processing, and the sensory processing differences seen in association with autism tend to persist over time. The level of ambient noise and presence of multiple conversations in close proximity, along with the bright lights and loud music common to many worship worship services may result in great discomfort for kids and adults with autism.

Social communication: Churches are intensely social places. Consider the extent to which someone with a condition impacting the ability to process non-verbal communication – body language, facial expression, tone and inflection of voice is disadvantaged in a typical church! How might the people of your church respond to someone who doesn’t follow social convention regarding appearance or dress, or struggles to follow common rules of social behavior, such as knowing when to speak or how to take turns while speaking? What challenges might they encounter if they’re expected to attend a Bible study or small group with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place?

Social isolation: The well-known pastor, speaker and author Carey Nieuwhof speculates that in the near future, personal invitations will be about the only way that non-Christians will show up at Christian churches. Where does that leave people with a condition in which one of the two core features is the need for support with social interaction? When I think of my patients on the high end of the spectrum, their greatest source of distress is the loneliness and pain resulting from not being desired as a friend.

I’d like to conclude by encouraging you to check out this anonymous blog post from a young adult in college describing her experiences in looking for a church in which she would feel accepted and welcomed.

I do not even know how to approach joining a church now since it is so evident that no one at my old church in my old city wants anything to do with me. For all the talk on forgiveness, I am apparently too eccentric and egocentric to be forgiven and to be accepted. Moreover, if not even loving Christians can put up with me, the rest of the world seems scary.

I once volunteered at a Christian youth centre, but I was told I had to leave after a few days for being too clumsy. I applied to several Christian schools, but I have found them to be the least accepting of my disabilities.

I have this vision that if I ever get married, it will be an empty church.

Interested in additional ministry resources on supporting persons with autism at church? Click here for a menu of resources we shared on Autism Awareness Day 2017.

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Please consider joining us at Bay Presbyterian Church in suburban Cleveland on April 20-21st, 2018 for Inclusion Fusion Live. This two day disability ministry conference features 25 speakers and 40 presentations, including all-day intensives on autism, mental health inclusion and respite ministry, praise and worship during the Friday night and Saturday sessions and program tracks for church leaders and families. Ministry intensives are offered for a modest fee that includes meals and support materials. Friday night and Saturday sessions are provided free of charge to pastors, church staff members and families, but registration is required.

Hope to see you in Cleveland for Inclusion Fusion Live!

 

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Mental health ministry training at Inclusion Fusion Live

We’re only a little more than a month away from Inclusion Fusion Live, a disability ministry conference sponsored by Key Ministry and hosted by Bay Presbyterian Church on April 20th-21st, 2018. Inclusion Fusion Live will feature over two dozen speakers and approximately forty talks, workshops and ministry intensives covering a broad array of disability related topics of interest to pastors, church leaders, staff members, ministry volunteers, family members and caregivers.

I’m especially pleased that we’ll be offering an all-day training for churches interested in developing a mental health inclusion strategy and making available five additional workshops and presentations for ministry leaders and families with interest in mental health ministry. Here’s a listing of what’s in store for Inclusion Fusion Live attendees…

 

Friday, April 20th – 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

DEVELOPING A MENTAL HEALTH INCLUSION STRATEGY IN YOUR CHURCH – Ministry Intensive || The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in five U.S. children and adults have a diagnosable mental health condition, and attributes of common mental health conditions often create barriers to church attendance and engagement for persons with mental illness and their families. Participants in this intensive, led by myself, Catherine Boyle of Outside In Ministries  and Jolene Philo will be introduced to a model for outreach and inclusion of children and adults with a broad range of mental health conditions into weekend worship services and other ministries and activities that serve as catalysts to spiritual growth. They will be provided with the necessary tools for crafting a mental health ministry strategy consistent with the unique mission and calling of their church.

Registration for the day-long intensive is $49 until April 6th ($69 after April 6th) and includes lunch, materials, a copy of my new book Mental Health and the Church and Key Ministry’s Mental Health Ministry Planning Tool. Interested in bringing your entire ministry team? Contact Beth Golik (beth@keyministry.org) about special group rates. Click here to register.

 

Saturday, April 21st – 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM

What Am I Supposed to Do With This Kid? Understanding How Trauma Impacts Development and How You Can Help or Hurt the Healing – Dr. Sherri McClurg || Whether at home, Sunday School School, or elsewhere, as families respond to God’s call to care for the orphan we are seeing more vulnerable children up close and personal. It doesn’t take long to realize that early childhood trauma has taken a toll on the child and traditional forms of parenting don’t have the same effect. Come learn how early childhood trauma impacts development, and strategies for helping grow and nurture a child who comes from a place of hurt, mistrust, and loss. This is a great workshop for parents, foster parents, teachers, and anyone working with kids exposed to trauma.

Editor’s note: Sherri is an outstanding child psychologist and colleague who was helped me lead our practice for the past eight years. She also serves as Executive Director of New Horizons for Children, the largest short-term orphan care ministry in North America. She’ll do a great job in helping participants understand the relationship between trauma, neglect and problematic behavior often manifested in adopted and foster children.

They Do Remember: Impact of Early Medical TraumaJolene Philo || This workshop provides basic information about trauma and PTSD in children. The first half of the session defines trauma and PTSD, debunks popular myths about the condition, and explains causes of trauma and PTSD risk factors. The second half of the workshop describes symptoms of PTSD and reviews effective methods of treatment. It also explores measures designed to prevent childhood trauma from becoming PTSD and provides a resource list. Parents are encouraged to participate in the question and answer period at the end.

What Can You Do to Promote Mental Health Ministry in Your ChurchCatherine Boyle || In this session, attenders will come away with a template to help start a mental health ministry. The presentation includes: how to identify mental health champions in your faith family, recommended first steps to launch your ministry, important community contacts for your church and ideas for graciously handling resistance to mental health ministry.

Helping Your Child or Teen with Mental Health Issues to Grow SpirituallyDr. Steve Grcevich || One in five kids in the U.S. meet criteria for at least one mental health disorder. Common attributes associated with ADHD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders and post-traumatic stress often present subtle, but very real barriers to church participation and spiritual maturity. In this session, we’ll help pastors, ministry leaders and parents recognize the ways in which common mental health conditions may interfere with spiritual growth and identify strategies for helping kids impacted by mental illness to become the adults God created them to be.

The Depressed Special Needs Dad: How to Support and Understand Him – Jason Hague || Fathers of autistic children often grapple for years with depression, causing immense stress on the entire family. Jason should know: he was one of them. In this session, Jason will share that journey, chronicled on his blog and the subject of his upcoming book, “Aching Joy: Following God through the Land of Unanswered Prayer.”

From Jason…

When my son drifted into the fog of severe autism, I went into a fog of my own, and I would still be there if it wasn’t for my church family. My pastoral staff helped me to recognize and verbalize my own disappointments and fears, and gave me space to walk through them toward joy. In the end, the power of a godly community helped me to recognize the goodness of God, and helped me to rediscover celebration. In this short session, I will encourage the body of Christ, whether pastors or laity to use their power to give hope to fathers who feel powerless.

The Friday evening and Saturday morning worship and conference sessions are being made available free to church to pastors, church leaders, ministry volunteers and families, but advance registration is required due to space limitations. Click here to register for any/all of the conference sessions you wish to attend. For an overview of the entire conference, click here. Speaker biographies may be found here. A complete list of breakout workshops and main stage panels and speakers is available here.

Please share this post with pastors, ministry leaders and family members who would want to be part of Inclusion Fusion Live!

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Key Ministry is a mighty organization operating on a very modest budget. Hosting a conference for hundreds of pastors, disability ministry leaders and families, and making nearly all of the conference available for free is a very costly undertaking! Would you consider becoming a sponsor for Inclusion Fusion Live, serving as a exhibitor or making a donation to help underwrite the cost of the conference? Our team, along with the churches and families we serve very much appreciate your prayers and financial support!

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Inclusion Fusion LIVE – A disability ministry conference for church leaders AND families

Registration is now open for Inclusion Fusion Live – a disability ministry conference hosted by Key Ministry  on April 20th-21st, 2018 at Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, Ohio.

The conference theme is Every Church Can Do Something. Our intent is for pastors, church staff members and volunteers to leave the conference fully equipped with the necessary resources to launch new ministries or expand the scope of existing ministries for children, adults and families affected by disability.

To that end, we’ve designed this conference very differently than the Inclusion Fusion Web Summits we hosted in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The conference will consist of three sessions over two days.

The day session on Friday, April 20th features three all-day ministry intensives. The $49 registration fee for each intensive includes materials and lunch, and attendees will leave equipped to take something new back to their churches. The ministry intensives include…

Buddy Break Basic Leadership Training (BLT) – This full-day Basic Leadership Training (BLT) is led by Marie Kuck of Nathaniel’s Hope constitutes the first step in your church launching a Buddy Break ministry. The BLT will equip your team to lead this monthly parents’ day out/respite program for kids with special needs. Join the Buddy Break network within 6 months and your $49 registration fee will be applied to the cost of a Buddy Break Start-Up Kit. It’s turnkey! The Buddy Break team will be with you every step of the way! Workshop materials and lunch are included in your registration. Buddy Break operates the largest church-based respite care network in the U.S., having trained staff from over 120 churches in 26 states and Puerto Rico.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: What it is and PRACTICAL Ideas to Try – Participants in this intensive, led by Victoria White of CLC Network will gain an understanding of six key differences in persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and discover practical tools and ideas to welcome and include them in church settings. These ideas are applicable with children, youth and adults and facilitate congregations in  receiving the gifts of persons with ASD. The intensive closes by presenting a powerful and unique perspective on behavior management ideas. Ample time will be provided to discuss application of the tools and ideas presented with persons already served by your church’s ministries. Leave with practical strategies for serving persons with ASDs considered “best practice” in church settings. Materials, lunch, and give-aways are included in your registration fee. While the intensive is focused on churches, attendees working in schools will also benefit from the training.

Developing a Mental Health Inclusion Strategy in Your Church – The National Institute of Mental of Mental Health reports that one in five U.S. children and adults have a diagnosable mental health condition, and attributes of common mental health conditions often create barriers to church attendance and engagement for persons with mental illness and their families. Participants in this intensive, led by Dr. Steve Grcevich of Key Ministry and Catherine Boyle of Outside In Ministries will be introduced to a model for outreach and inclusion of children and adults with a broad range of mental health conditions into weekend worship services and other ministries and activities that serve as catalysts to spiritual growth and will be provided with the necessary tools for crafting a mental health ministry strategy consistent with the unique mission and calling of their church. Registration includes a copy of Mental Health and the Church by Dr. Grcevich, along with Key’s Mental Health Ministry Planning Tool. Lunch is also included. Additional speakers will be announced.

The sessions on Friday evening and Saturday will be kicked off with times of worship and prayer and will feature 22 breakout sessions, along with fifteen “Quick Takes” – fifteen minute, TED talk-like presentations from the conference main stage, and three main stage panel discussions.

Dr. Grcevich and Marie Kuck are serving as Friday night’s featured speakers, with Barb Newman of CLC Network and Sandra Peoples of Key Ministry featured on Saturday.

Saturday’s breakout sessions will be organized into two tracks…one for church staff and volunteers, and a second track for family members of children and adults with disabilities.

Our speaker lineup is also scheduled to include…

  • Barb Dittrich
  • Lamar Hardwick
  • Stephen “Doc” Hunsley
  • Lisa Jamieson
  • Jolene Philo
  • Ryan Wolfe

The Friday evening and Saturday sessions are offered free of charge, but advance registration is required because space is limited. Click here to reserve your spot at each session.

Can’t make it to the Cleveland area to attend in person? We’ll be live streaming the worship services, our featured and “Quick Takes” speakers and our panel discussions on our main Key Ministry Facebook page.

On behalf of our Key Ministry team and our participating speakers and organizations, I look forward to welcoming all of you to Cleveland for a time of fun, fellowship and lots of learning on April 20th and 21st!

One last note for our friends and ministry supporters. Putting on a disability ministry conference of this size and scope is a leap of faith for us. Opening the conference to ministry leaders and families while offering 40 of the 43 scheduled workshops, panel discussions and presentations free of charge is a major leap of faith. Whether or not you can join us for Inclusion Fusion Live, please keep the conference in your prayers and consider making a financial gift to our ministry to help offset our expenses.

 

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Mental illness and violence…What does the data say?

Photo credit: New York Times

When incidents such as yesterday’s school shooting in Florida occur, I’m sick and tired of the immediate calls for more gun control as well as the insinuation that mental illness is to blame. When we perpetuate the idea that mental illness is a root cause of the violence in schools we do children and adults with mental illness and their families a disservice.

It feels like our society is looking for a quick and easy solution that allows us to maintain our denial of the root cause of the violence that has visited our schools with alarming frequency.

As church leaders, we have a responsibility to speak with integrity regarding what she know to be true from the available research.

I was asked by one of our local Christian stations to come on the air specifically to discuss the relationship between mental illness and violence. I did a literature search to examine the research on the topic, and put together some key takeaway points based upon my findings…

  • The available research suggests that persons with mental illness are two to three times more likely to exhibit violent behavior than those without mental illness, but the vast majority (93-98%) never become violent.
  • In one large study, 2.9% of persons with serious mental illness alone committed violent acts in a year, compared with 0.8% of people with no mental disorders or substance abuse. Persons with cooccurring substance use disorder and serious mental illness had a higher rate of violence (10.0%)
  • Mental illness and violence are related primarily through the accumulation of multiple risk factors – historical (past violence, juvenile detention, physical abuse, parental arrest record), clinical (substance abuse, perceived threats), dispositional (young, male) and contextual (recent divorce, unemployment, victimization) among the mentally ill.
  • One large study of adult psychiatric outpatients with serious mental illness being served in the public mental health system without a history of violent victimization or exposure to neighborhood violence who were not abusing drugs or alcohol, had annual rates of violent behavior similar to the general population without mental illness – about 2%.
  • Mental illness is strongly associated not with an increased risk of homicide, but with an increased risk of suicide. Each year approximately 32,000 people in the U.S. are killed with guns-about 19,000 of them by their own hand.
  • A huge disconnect exists between public perception and reality regarding the risk of violent behavior related to mental illness. A 2013 national public opinion survey found that 46% of Americans believed that persons with serious mental illness were “far more dangerous than the general population.”
  • Psychiatrists lack the ability to accurately predict which of their patients will become violent. One study examining psychiatrists’ predictions of violence based on clinical assessments performed in emergency rooms demonstrated they were only slightly more accurate than flipping a coin and no better than chance in predicting violence in female patients. In order to prevent one stranger homicide, 35,000 patients with schizophrenia judged to be at high risk of violence would need to be detained.

The bottom line…If we could eradicate all mental illness, we would reduce acts of violence by approximately 4%. 96% of the violence that currently occurs in the general population would continue to occur.

If you’re interested in reading further on the topic of mental illness and violence, the two best review articles I found were this paper from Dr. Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University and a more concise review published in 2016 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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Interested in being part of a book study led by Dr. Grcevich on  Mental Health and the Church:  A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions?

Beginning February 20th, he’ll be posting daily discussion questions, sharing interesting links and resources and, from time to time, interactive video chats. To join this free (but closed) Facebook group, type “Mental Health and the Church Study Group” in your Facebook search box, ask to join the group and answer the two questions about why you want to join.

Mental Health and the Church is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

Posted in Controversies, Key Ministry, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The stories you’ve shared about mental health and the church

Two weeks ago, we invited readers of our blog to share their experiences of attending church as someone impacted by a mental health condition – either individually, or as a family member. We’ve begun to assemble the stories within our ministry website as a resource and an inspiration to leaders seeking to develop a mental health inclusion strategy within their churches.

I’d encourage you to read through all of the stories. Here are two excerpts of stories shared by our readers…

We had two children. One was diagnosed as a toddler with autism and the other had a post-college diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

I look back at the megachurch we attended and little was offered in support for us as a family…

The difficulties have been immense as a single mother and for my children: traversing medical and behavioral health care, advocating for appropriate educational services, finding a career that is flexible, financial struggles, exhaustion,loneliness, finding adult lifespan services,…to be honest, the church offered nothing to me or my children (even when I brought a need forward). I never felt like I belonged there. Needless, to say, I left after my older child transitioned to college after high school.

Anonymous

This is from the mother of a young woman with a mental health condition closely associated with complex medical concerns…

Our 22 year old daughter began exhibiting serious mental health problems when she was in 8th grade. Our family was going through several major crisises at that time including a job loss, two youngest entering public school from homeschooling. Our resources were strapped to say the least. We attended a small church in our college town. We found very little support from the leadership at the church except “We will pray for you.” Adults who had known her since 3rd grade that could have reached out, instead withdrew, and began to encourage her peers to not spend time with her. We later found out that many of these peers had bullied her for several years with many adult church leaders knowledge and without sharing these concerns with us. We also found that the longer she struggled emotionally and spiritually the less welcome we felt, and many people verbally stated her problem was a spiritual problem. A few close friends walked with us and prayed with us through the tears, but the youth ministry was woefully inept to come along and step into her life and help her. As she now recounts bitterly, “They were too busy trying to save me, that they ignored the things I needed the most like friendships.”

We eventually left the church for a different church where she felt more welcomed by adults and peers, but many peers thought of her only as that “troubled girl” from school. The youth leaders did more to make her feel welcomed, but still had very little resources or understanding of mental health issues. Church and youth group had the air of being a place for the “good kids.”

Anonymous

This past week, I was interviewed on a couple of radio programs – In the Market with Janet Parshall and on the Brian and Kathleen Morning Show on our local Moody Radio station in Cleveland. In each case, the hosts of the show took calls from the audience for a significant portion of our time on the air. I was especially moved by the words of one caller. The exchange begins at the 35:55 mark in the interview if you don’t have time to listen from beginning to end.

I was hospitalized this summer for twelve days…

I was treated terrible at the church I was attending. I was not visited one time in those twelve days, and I was told basically by a pastor that if I didn’t like it, twice that there was a door and I could leave.

I found a good church and I’m in a good church.

Mary Ann, Wooster OH

As I shared with the Brian and Kathleen and their listening audience, the most troubling aspect of the stories shared by Mary Ann and others is that their experiences reflect poorly upon the character of God as reflected through the words and actions of the church. We can and must do a lot better in sharing Christ’s love and the message of the Gospel with our friends and neighbors with mental illness and welcoming them into the fellowship of the church.

The time is now.

Click here if you have a story you’d like to share of your experiences of church – positive, negative or a little of both, as someone affected by mental illness.

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Interested in being part of a book study led by Dr. Grcevich on  Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions?  Click here if you’d like to be included in the closed Facebook group where the study will begin on Tuesday, February 20th.

The book presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles and is designed as a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

 

 

Posted in Key Ministry, Mental Health, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments