Reporting Live from NAMI WA conference...Mental Health Matters at Kol Ami


A special thanks to Jesse Zook Mann for support and guidance in preparing this work.

This afternoon I am offering a session on inclusive spiritual community and caring for our community members living with mental illness. I have served on the NAMI Washington Board of Directors for the past three years and have grown in my advocacy each year. And I have also grown in my compassion for those who are living with mental illness and their families. These are some of the most neglected and stigmatized people in our society. And we all have people in our lives with illnesses: mental and/or physical. And everyone, every one of them, deserves equal care and love. And care from the community. And opportunities to show care and share their wisdom with the community too.

This is the resource sheet! I will post a video of the session at a later date.

Healing in Inclusive Spiritual Community: A New Paradigm in Mental Illness Recovery

The Connection Between Loneliness and Mental Illness

Loneliness is defined as a distressing feeling that accompanies the perception that one's social needs are not being met by the quantity or especially the quality of one's social relationships.

  • 61% of young adults are seriously lonely.

  • People who are lonely are at a 4x risk of death

  • People with serious mental illness experience higher rates of loneliness than the general population (approximately 2.3 times higher)

(research by Jesse Zook Mann)

Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of … › articles › PMC3874845

Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It (Harvard)

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions (CDC)

Loneliness and its association with physical health conditions and psychiatric hospitalizations in people with serious mental illness (Soc Work Ment Health)

Building Resilience to Trauma: The Trauma and Community Resiliency Models (Book)

Loneliness is an important public health issue (Groarke et al. 2020).

Loneliness refers to an unpleasant feeling that occurs when one losses the quality and quantity of social or intimate relationships (Peplau and Perlman 1982). Experience of loneliness during the current health crisis can be prevalent due to imposed COVID-19 social and physical restrictions. According to one study, the prevalence of loneliness in UK public was 27% during lockdown, with one in four (24%) reported they had feelings of loneliness in the “previous two weeks” (Groarke et al. 2020).

Greater level of loneliness has potential to stimulate the prevalence of mood disorders, suicide and self-harm, and increase pre-existing mental health illnesses (Holmes et al. 2020).

Researchers have highlighted the importance of identifying the predictors of loneliness in the face of adversity (Groarke et al. 2020).

Various risk and protective factors were identified which increase loneliness (Kızılgeçit 2015).

For example, in the study of Hoffart et al.’s (2020), rumination, health anxiety, and worry as well as being single and having a pre-existing psychiatric condition were significantly associated with more loneliness and loneliness was found to significantly positively predicted depression and anxiety over and above the all potential cofounders (e.g. age, gender, education level) and pre-existing psychiatric conditions.

Another study (Groarke et al. 2020) found that younger age groups, being divorced or separated, greater emotion regulation difficulties, poor quality sleep because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who are meeting clinical criteria for depression, are at greater risk of loneliness and social isolation, while higher levels of perceived social support, being married, and living with a greater number of adults serve as protective factors for loneliness in times of health crisis.

How Spiritual/Religious Community Can Partner in Healing

Congregations play a vital role in supporting positive mental and emotional health. One study estimates that as many as 40% of people in the U.S. approach clergy as the first point of contact when seeking guidancwith mental health issues. The way clergy handle these interactions will either reduce or increase the stigma associated with psychological well-being. It’s not enough to send vulnerable congregants home with an encouraging hug, a verse of Scripture and a prayer. If someone is courageous enough to seek out their minister when they are struggling or considering suicide, that’s a real cry for help.

Clergy Motivation and Occupational Well-being: Exploring a Quadripolar Model and Its Role in Predicting Burnout and Engagement Philip D. Parker & Andrew J. Martin

People heal in relationship to other people, and acceptance in a community where their presence is honored and where they can be honest about the mental health challenges they face is central to recovery and to living with their situation.

Meyers, Barbara F.; Meyers, Barbara F. . Held: Showing Up for Each Other's Mental Health (p. 27)

John Schumaker explains that religion can benefit mental health by

• offering order and structure in a sometimes chaotic world, reducing anxiety,

• offering hope, meaning, and purpose, and thus a sense of emotional well-being,

• providing reassurance, enabling one to withstand suffering and pain,

• offering afterlife beliefs, helping to solve the problem of mortality,

• offering moral guidelines for life to serve self and others,

• offering a social identity, acceptance, and belonging, and

• providing cathartic release through participation in ritual.

Meyers, Barbara F.; Meyers, Barbara F. . Held: Showing Up for Each Other's Mental Health (p. 30).

Mental illness is a spiritual problem as well as a medical and psychiatric one. People living with it can experience existential doubts about selfhood, truth, meaning, love, and agency with particular intensity. But even when their need for spiritual care is recognized, it is often left entirely to the minister and congregational leaders to provide it. It’s common for people to believe that only doctors and religious professionals can offer meaningful help to people with mental health problems, and that the best thing others can do is either to just treat them like everyone else or to ignore their difficulties. Indeed, while most people with mental health difficulties don’t act or talk in an unusual way, at times some do, and people who find their behaviors off-putting or even frightening may avoid engaging with them. But they and their loved ones need the surrounding, enfolding care of an entire community, not just the attention of a few designated leaders.

Meyers, Barbara F.; Meyers, Barbara F. . Held: Showing Up for Each Other's Mental Health (p. 15).