By Rev. Neelley Hicks
In this festival season of Light lay also the darkness. The stark contrast becomes even more pronounced as joyful celebrations abound. For many who suffer loss, the Light can be hard to find.
On Sunday, December 11, the “Holiday Blues and Jazz: Worship Service and Mental Health Resources Event” provided healing space for these experiences. Scarritt Bennett Center, Steal Away Women, and the Health and Wellness Initiatives Committee of The Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of The United Methodist Church hosted this experience of lament and hope, offering prayers, spoken word, blues, and jazz music.
This event provided a way for the Health and Wellness Initiative Committee to bring forward its commitment to addressing the need for awareness and resources for mental health, illness, and recovery. Clergy play an essential role in destigmatizing mental illness. “Stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. Individuals living with mental illness may find it difficult to share out of concern that others may view them negatively,” said Rev. Marie C. King, chair of the Health and Wellness Initiatives Committee.
Artists brought expressions of the soul to life through the talents of Spoken Word Artist Michael Diallo McLendon, blues and jazz music provided by musicians Kevin Madill, Connye Florance, Rev. Dr. Kim McLean, and Live Sketch Artist Rev. Linda Furtado.
“Christmas is like a giant isolation booth to someone who cannot join the festive mood. You might show up, you might smile, but the colorful lights strobe your senses with dark memories, and the pressure to perform happiness is unsettling. The person who grieves while the world dances to sugar plum visions may feel like they are ruining the fun for everyone. But there is no holiday from grieving. Giving space to grieving is giving grace to grieving. If our pain is truly a pathway to peace, then what better time to tread that journey, surrounded by the hope of love and light that characterizes the holiday season,” said Rev. Dr. Kim McLean
Healing and recovery are possible, and resources are available.
“We are losing so many of our people to suicide. Suicide is preventable. People just want to get rid of their pain,” said Gwen Hamer, Director of Education and Development at the Dept. of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. If you or someone you love is feeling hopeless or at risk of suicide, help is available. Call 988, the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to talk to a live person. (988Lifeline.org).
The Mental Health Resources event highlighted the variety of available programs through area and state-based programs. By tapping into these resources, your house of prayer can become a house of healing. Include these resources in your pastoral care toolkit to heighten awareness and access. [Links below]
Many people suffer needlessly from a lack of knowledge and a supportive community. While addiction recovery groups exist in many congregations, there is a great need to expand the number of groups available to increase local access.
Trauma-recovery group resources and training are now available through a partnership between TWK deacon Rev. Neelley Hicks and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. “Triumph Over Trauma” expands access to trauma-informed awareness through localized faith communities where love and acceptance are already found. Triumph Over Trauma is one way congregations can actively mitigate America’s mental health crisis. Resources and registration are free and available at TriumphOverTrauma.info.
Reminiscent of the song “Where No One Stands Alone,” Rev. Marie King shared, “‘Hand in hand, we take a stand that neither can take alone.’ We are so thankful for each who shared time, expertise, knowledge, and resources for Holiday Blues and Jazz: Worship and Mental Health Resources. The work we do is multifaceted and cannot be effectively done in silos. The connection of resources helped the community to know that mental health concerns come in different ways at all ages and circumstances. You are not alone.”
A special thank you to the members of the Health and Wellness Initiative Committee for their commitment to increasing mental wellness throughout the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference and to Rev. Timothy Holton, Pastor, the Berlin Circuit, Rev. Dr. Paula Smith, Senior Pastor Gordon Memorial UMC and Founder Steal Away Women, Rev. Dr. Donna Patterson, Chaplain with Scarritt Bennett Center, Rev. Michael Vaughn, Director of Technology, Rev. Sondrea Tolbert, Executive Director of Scarritt Bennett Center, the agencies and organizations which provide resources and counseling for mental health wellness, care, and support, and the community for helping to make this event possible.
Suicide Prevention: https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/need-help/be-the-one.html
Congregational Support: https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/substance-abuse-services/faith-based-initiatives.html