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It’s Cool Now to Speak Openly About Your Mental Health Journey, or Is It?

It’s Cool Now to Speak Openly About Your Mental Health Journey, or Is It?

Hello friends,

Over the past few weeks we’ve watched and discussed some really inspiring videos about how people have turned their personal struggles with mental illness into profound acts of courage and generosity. It’s not your typical Christmas content, I suppose, but Christmas is a celebration of hope and these stories are nothing if not hopeful.

This week we’ll watch one more from Carson Daly (if you grew up on MTV he needs no introduction), who speaks candidly about his struggles with anxiety and panic disorder. One of my hopes is that, in just a few years’ time, we hear even more of these personal testimonies…not just from those affected by depression and anxiety, but also from people affected by types of mental illness such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder that are still considered taboo.

Our warm-up is a Christmas-themed guessing game!

Name two Christmas carols, and see if everyone else can guess whether you love one and despise the other, love them both, or give them both a “bah humbug.”

See you soon,
Alex

Prescribing More Creativity

Prescribing More Creativity

Hello friends,

We have some really creative and artistic people in this discussion group. There’s also people like me, who perhaps aren’t naturally artistic but strive to be more creative and appreciative of the art we encounter. This week we’re going to explore a few different ways in which mental health and art can intersect, from giving us a language to express complex feelings to connecting us with people and ideas that can bring healing.
In advance of our conversation this week, please take a few minutes to read this brief but touching opinion piece about how a pop musician’s art changed a young person’s life in profound ways. To start off our conversation we’ll watch this short video about how a newfound habit of creative expression set a mentally ill young adult on a path of healing and transformation. Perhaps you have a story to share about how art has helped you on your mental health journey? If so, I hope you’ll consider sharing your experience with us.
Our warm-up question for this week:

Check out this website of Texas Mental Health Creative Arts Contest winners. Which image stands out to you, and why?

See you soon,
Alex

“The next time you hear ‘mental,’ do not just think of the mad man, think of me”

“The next time you hear ‘mental,’ do not just think of the mad man, think of me”

Hello friends,

We have many preconceptions about mental illness that we may or may not be aware of—who it affects, what it looks like, how it should be addressed—that are ingrained in us through the images we see, the voices that get (or don’t get) elevated, and the many other ways in which mental health is represented in our society. These preconceptions can make it a lot harder for some people to get the help they need when facing mental health challenges because they invite stigma, intentionally or otherwise.

This can be especially true for people in cultures where mental illness is not yet widely regarded as a treatable illness, for men who have been trained to suppress emotions to avoid projecting weakness, and for people of faith who have been taught that seeking help “apart” from God is a betrayal of religious conviction. In today’s conversation we’re going to hear from one person for whom this was the reality of seeking help for mental illness. Some questions to consider as you watch this 9-minute video:

  • Do we have an assumption about what “being mentally ill” looks like? How has that changed over time?
  • What role does culture play in determining who does or doesn’t get help for mental illness?
  • Do we have a problem with mental illness education and awareness being overly represented by people from some cultures or backgrounds?
  • What preconceptions do we have about mental health that intentionally or unintentionally create stigma?

Our warm-up question for this week is more of an activity than a question:

Choose one person in the discussion and tell us something you appreciate about that person. The more specific you can be, the better!

See you soon,
Alex

How spirituality can help protect us from despair and mental illness

How spirituality can help protect us from despair and mental illness

Hello friends,

Have you ever felt that receiving effective treatment for mental illness requires that we turn away from religious or spiritual support and instead seek help from clinicians? It’s easy to understand why this idea might have developed in encouraging people to seek structured, evidence-based care from trained mental health professionals. Have we gone too far in dismissing the role of religion and spirituality in protecting our mental health and combatting forms of mental illness?

Dr. Lisa Miller, a psychologist at Columbia University, would say that we’ve definitely underplayed the role of spirituality in preventing and treating depression specifically. In this week’s discussion we’re going to watch a brief video where Dr. Miller describes her research and what she and her team have found over multiple studies. Spoiler alert: she finds convincing evidence that spirituality–as defined by our connection to “something bigger than ourselves” (i.e., God)–can protect the human brain against despair and be an effective treatment for depression via altruism.

Maybe it’s time we move from “either or” to “both and” when it comes to religion and treatment for mental illness? Or is that a step in the wrong direction? Join us tomorrow to share your thoughts!

Our warm-up question for this week:

It’s said that certain scents can be very strongly tied to memories. What’s a memory you have, good or bad, that has a distinct smell associated with it?

See you soon,

Alex