New Jersey – Stigma Free

By Carol McGough

In May 2011 the Hudson County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness joined with town officials to declare Hoboken, New Jersey stigma free. This first stigma free zone in the country sought to raise awareness of mental illness and to encourage people to seek help and treatment. In the intervening years, the entire state has embraced the stigma free initiative, including municipalities, schools, and houses of worship

 In Bergen County, the most populous in the state, 69/70 municipalities have joined the initiative with proclamations, seminars, workshops and toolkits dedicated to advocacy and education.

The Codey Fund, founded by our former governor, has led the campaign, with funding for educational resources. In addition, the governor travels the state speaking to groups about mental health, with special emphasis on teenage suicide. A number of colleges and universities in the state are active in the stigma free movement as a result of the governor’s activism.

Through their pastoral care team, Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, New Jersey conducts stigma free activities, including interfaith roundtables and publishes the Stigma Free Zone (SFZ) News, founded by CUC member Cynthia Chazen. First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, Fanwood, NJ, hosted a task force with Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services and the city of Plainfield to declare the city stigma free in 2017. Members of the Plainfield congregation serve as stigma free zone ambassadors throughout the city.

 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

 City of Plainfield stigma free website www.werstigma-free.org

To receive the Stigma Free Zone News, email cynchazen@gmail.com

https://www.co.bergen.nj.us/images/Departments__Services/Health_Services/Mental_Health/FINALStigmaFreeToolkit.pdf

https://morriscountystigmafree.org/toolkit

www.codeyfund.org

 

 

 

Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine

Sharing these tips from Dr. Eileen Feliciano, a doctoral level Psychologist in NYS with a Psy.D. in the specialties of School and Clinical Psychology.

After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all. I can’t control a lot of what is going on right now, but I can contribute this.

MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE

  1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
  2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
  3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.
  4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
  5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!
  6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
  7. Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.
  8. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.
  9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.
  10. Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.
  11. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.
  12. Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.
  13. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with #12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
  14. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
  15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
  16. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.
  17. 17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.
  18. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
  19. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
  20. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!
  21. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
  22. Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
  23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.
  24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.
  25. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

 

UU Mental Health Network Receives Non-profit Status

We are delighted to announce that we received word from the Internal Revenue Service that our application for 501 (c)(3) non-profit status has been approved. This means that donations to the UU Mental Health Network are tax exempt. We will be putting a “Donate” button on our website to facilitate these interactions.

I Am Our Faith, As Is Everyone

By Henry Katzman, Unitarian Universalist Mental Health Network Board Member

The divinity of my experience is inarguable, as it is inarguable in all. To deny the “Worth and Dignity” of anyone based on the divergence of mind, is sacrilegious to our faith. Unitarian Universalism is a faith of devotional welcoming, claiming inclusivity of “All Creeds.” But I ask, can radical inclusivity exist when those we deem mentally ill are wrapped in a blanket of savior-like protection.

Within our congregations some feel the need to save, heal and ultimately perpetuate an idealism of health so undefinable we categorize it by what it is not. My illness (a word I’ve beginning to reject), has indisputably brought suffering in my life; changing my concurrent perspective. My “illness” although not all my conception of self, is part of who and why I am.

To be “cured” of my chronic condition is admittedly impossible and after years within the medical realm of invasive treatment, the consensus that this is true stands. So, I ask, how can I be faithful in a world where I am told my reality is one that is delusional, in contrast to what I experience? How can I be faithful, when those who, deemed sane, fix me and tell me what my faith ought to be.

Naturally I believe in my own divinity “created in their image” and as a theist, I believe that to hold true for all creation. To try to save me from my own divinity seems to defeat the purpose of acknowledging such. Marginalizing differential experience in the Unitarian Universalist faith must be looked upon and fought as if it is (and it very well may be) antithetical to the seven Principles and the six Sources.

I spread this condemnation of saviorhood to all peoples that are asked to assimilate to the “just and logical.” I have witnessed this in our siblings of faith facing other marginalizations. Often our community asks, “Change so we, may be feel at ease, unchallenged in our sense of self.” When directing this at those who are neurodivergent, not only is this adjustment asked, but an impossible task of moral consideration and reconciliation is imposed. For the “healthy” assume the experience of the unhealthy by knowing what it is not.

The divinity of my experience is inarguable. Truly I find myself challenged by my faithful communities, but because of my faith in right relations and the intrinsic power of systemic change, I stay. The divinity of my experience is inarguable, as is the divinity of others, knowing that intention to protect comes from an intention to progress towards what others see as “health”.

Along my journey I have learned that intention cannot always be trusted. Instead I trust in the divine source of creation, asking them for trust. Trust that I am human, not a patient who must be eradicated or a sad story to weep for. I trust that I am created in their image; that although I suffer, uniquely, I have been exposed to unique lessons that transcend the marginalization of staying in community that asks for me to colonize my experience.

I once thought that I was too ill to live and now I think I am too ill to die. The faith of Unitarian Universalism is mine; I claim a spot in the circle of life, with dignity afforded to my fellow worshipers. I love our faith; I feel anger towards our faith; I feel everything towards our faith. The dialectics flow, but what I do know is this: I am our faith, as is everyone.

I am Severely Mentally Ill, and I am Unitarian Universalist.

Bedlam: The Film and the Book

Psychiatrist and award-winning documentarian Kenneth Rosenberg sheds light on the mental-health-care crisis in the United States.

In 1946, Life magazine published an exposé: “BEDLAM 1946: Most of the U.S.  Mental Hospitals Are a Shame and Disgrace.” It focused on how mental hospitals had devolved into places of horror.  The article helped to shift public opinion away from institutionalization in favor of outpatient care.  Further, in 1948 the movie The Snake Pit starring Olivia de Haviland showed some terrifying scenes in a large mental institution.  The movie led to some states instituting reforms to their mental hospital systems, and added to the atmosphere of public opinion that led eventually to these institutions being closed.  The ultimate result of the closures is shown in this movie and book by Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg.  Hopefully the reaction to the book and movie will lead to a better end result for people in mental health crisis and their families.  As the publicity for the book and movie explain:

When Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg trained as a psychiatrist in the late 1980s, the state mental hospitals, which had reached peak occupancy in the 1950s, were being closed at an alarming rate, with many patients having nowhere to go. There has never been a more important time for this conversation, as one in five adults–40 million Americans–experiences mental illness each year. Today, the largest mental institution in the United States is the Los Angeles County Jail, and the last refuge for many of the 20,000 mentally ill people living on the streets of Los Angeles is L.A. County Hospital. There, Dr. Rosenberg begins his chronicle of what it means to be mentally ill in America today, integrating his own moving story of how the system failed his sister, Merle, who had schizophrenia. As he says, “I have come to see that my family’s tragedy, my family’s shame, is America’s great secret.”

The book has been made into a documentary. The film version of Bedlam follows the poignant stories of people grappling with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other chronic psychiatric conditions. Impossible to mask when untreated, their symptoms shove them into the path of police officers, ER doctors and nurses, lawyers, and prison guards. Shooting over the course of five years, Rosenberg takes us inside Los Angeles County’s overwhelmed and vastly under-resourced psych ER, a nearby jail warehousing thousands of psychiatric patients, and the homes — and homeless encampments — of people suffering from severe mental illness, where silence and shame often worsen the suffering.

Dr. Rosenberg gives readers and viewers an inside look at the historical, political, and economic forces that have resulted in the greatest social crisis of the twenty-first century. The culmination of a seven-year inquiry, Bedlam is not only a rallying cry for change, but also a guide for how we move forward with care and compassion, with resources that have never before been compiled, including legal advice, practical solutions for parents and loved ones, help finding community support, and information on therapeutic options.

 

You Were an Interesting Case, poetry by Ellie White

 

About the author: Ellie White holds an MFA from Old Dominion University. She writes poetry and nonfiction. She has won an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and has been nominated for both Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Breakwater Review, SLANT, The Columbia Review, Foundry and many other journals. Ellie’s second chapbook, Drift, was recently published by Dancing Girl Press. Her first full-length collection will be released by Unsolicited Press on December 31st, 2019. She is a social media editor and reader for Muzzle Magazine. Ellie currently rents a basement in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.  To read more of her work, visit her website: elliewhitewrites.com

Ellie White,  is a relative of current UU Mental Health Network board member, Erin White. 

Content Warning:  This poem discusses the experience of being hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital.  

You Were an Interesting Case

i. Going In

The day you looked Death in the face and told it
to fuck all the way off,
a pretty counselor walked beside you through the student center.
The police kindly kept their distance until you arrived
at the car, where the older one helped you fasten your seatbelt
across the gray plastic seat. It was so low,
you barely had to scrunch down.
At the hospital, a nurse took your vitals, and then led you
through a series of push-button doors.
On opening, each one leaned awkwardly away from its partner.
The nurse left you in the observation area and after a while,
the counselor left, too.
A new nurse came and drew your blood. Then, a different one came
with pizza and French fries. The dessert, of course,
was unidentifiable and your roommate laughed at it when he popped by
to say hello. The food nurse wanted a urine sample.
Though you’d never been arrested,
the bathroom reminded you of jail. The steel toilet was smeared
with shit. The handicap rails sported brown handprints.
You thought it best not to complain.
Like a good student, you answered every question, called your family, even emailed
your study partner. Angry and rejected, Death looked on.
You both cried a little bit.
Eventually, you were taken upstairs.

 

ii The Red Woman

Long before Death came into the picture, she was there. The Red Woman: a pure and vivacious rage. On a long and drunken walk home last April, she slipped into your shoe like a pebble from the riverbank. Your mind slid into her like a warm bath. She said Break the mirror. Punch the wall. and your body obeyed. The next morning, you could only finger the bruises as you watched the coffee brew. Summer was a blur. She’d show up, sometimes empty-handed, sometimes with a bottle of cheap Pinot, and the world was only corners. Only knives, and walls, and mirrors, and morning after morning with dried blood and Mr. Coffee. You didn’t bother with band aids or explanations. In late July, you finally let her move in, even got a new tattoo to mark the occasion: a keyhole on your ribs, so she could see out. But when she invited Death into your bed last night, you knew they both had to go. You didn’t know she was here at the hospital until a disheveled woman in a blue nightgown wandered into your supposedly safe room at 5 a.m. Under a blanket that reeked of sour spit, greasy scalps, and piss, you pretended to be asleep. She muttered White bitches. Why are all these white bitches lying in these beds? Just lying. I will set this whole place on fire. I’ll burn every last one of these white bitches up.     

 

iii. Humor

In the event you should like to make a joke,
ask to borrow the red marker. Use it to carefully color in
the letters on your milk carton. Try to imagine you are climbing
the hills of the M, or perhaps they are sand dunes,
or snow drifts. You haven’t been outside
in four days. It’s meditation hour,
so the television screen in the activity room is taunting you
with piney forests, austere mountain lakes, fields of wildflowers, and random deer.
The accompanying music is of the “serene” variety
usually reserved for acupuncturist’s offices.
Speaking of needles, you got this milk carton from an addict.
He drinks at least three milks with every meal,
but has no teeth so it’s hard to tell if he’s absorbing the calcium.
In his honor, and the Red Woman’s too, if you’re being honest, you add
a festive drop of blood just beneath
the straddled legs of the K. You show it first
to the friendly old man who almost killed his brother-in-law last week.
You tell him Hey look, it’s milk for vampires.
Then, you turn to the bearded woman coloring a butterfly who recently mistook her chest
for a knife block and say Got any Kotex?
I think the K sprung a leak.
On the screen, an unidentifiable farm animal (goat? sheep?) grazes
near the base of an oak tree. Behind it, gray mountains rise
like the constant prayers of the pregnant sex worker sitting one table over.
Nobody laughs. It’s not that kind of joke.

 

iv. Valium/Atarax

The Lord doesn’t speak to you like he did to your cousin. Instead, you watch from the flooded floor of the shower room as the Red Woman slithers aboard the dark ship, the one that carried Tennyson’s good King Arthur away. She is a serpent with an apple in her belly. Or maybe she is a ghost like the king. The king is still here somewhere, though poor Sir Bedivere has long since gone home to his grief. The Red Woman rocks with the ship; the night and the water indistinguishable from sleep. She once said she was heartless, so you lent her yours. She returned it seemingly intact save for a single splinter, bright and growing like winter’s dawn. In the galley, the Red Woman taps her foot on a rotting floor, and somehow, this translates as a pulse. She begins to dance a waltz, her bare blue feet finding every corner, brown toenails snapping off one by one, and your mind becomes the air in a car speeding past a country graveyard, prickly and full of gasps.  

 

v. Diagnosis and Discharge

Praise the three wise doctors,
for they have given it a name,
and that name has been fruitful
and multiplied. Now, there’s a word
for the days you spent drifting in and out
on the couch, binge-watching BBC period dramas
and forgetting to eat. A word
for the first two weeks of every quarter
in junior year when you never stopped.
Best of all, a pair of words for the intolerable sharpness,
the screaming thoughts and tapping fingers,
the toe-stubbing agony of sitting through lecture classes.
With this new vocabulary came little white pills,
each one a pure and perfect prayer to stop
the swinging. This is what they sent you home with.
Your mother met you on the other side of the doors,
and you let her hug you, let her see
her youngest and most difficult child
still intact. Your apartment looked like it did
five days ago. True to their nature, the cats purred
as they wound their steadfast and thready love around your feet.
The nose ring they made you take out
slid back in with minimal fuss.
You took a long shower,
conditioned your hair, put on nice deodorant.
You’d missed yourself too much to put on clothes,
so you crawled into bed naked. While you lay there
watching Girl, Interrupted and realizing no one
would believe any of this happened,
Death and the Red Woman sat in your kitchen.

* This poem originally appeared in Barely South Review

Rev. Barbara Meyers Receives Award

On October 10 2019 Rev. Barbara Meyers, president of the UU Mental Health Network Board, received an award  from the California Mental Health and Spirituality Initiative, a program of the California Institute for Mental Health.  It was presented to her at their conference on spirituality and mental health in Walnut Creek.  The award is “in recognition of your dedication and commitment to building mental health friendly communities.”  Two other faith leaders who have long tenures in doing mental health work also received this award.
 
We are grateful that her work is being recognized state-wide in California.

First Board of UU Mental Health Network

We’re happy to announce that the first Board of the UU Mental Health Network has been established. It is:
President: Barbara Meyers
Vice President: Karl Paananen
Secretary: Janet Holden
Treasurer: Carol McGough
At Large Members: Sandy Goodwick, Henry Katzman, Erin White

Thank you to all of the people for their willingness to serve in this capacity until the next election in June of 2020.

UU Mental Health Network is Incorporated!

By Rev. Barbara F. Meyers

Good news! We are now incorporated in Michigan!

We have forwarded the incorporation papers and the bylaws to the UUA for our request to become an official “related organization” of the UUA.

In the incorporation papers, our member Karl Paananen is listed as the registered agent, and the address used as the registered agent’s address is the address of the UU Church of Greater Lansing where he is a member. The church is providing us with a mailbox in the church office.

Now is time to get serious about the business of the organization. The next task is to select officers as specified in our bylaws. Then, we can start having meetings and get busy with our activities. The bylaws state that the core working group that created the UU Mental Health Network will appoint the officers until we have an election in June of 2020, where all members will vote for a full slate of officers.

Here are the members of the core working group: Michelle Wagner, Rev. Katie Norris, Janet Holden, Robert Skrocki, Peggy Rahman, Carol McGough, Tim Hanami, Adam Brown, Karl Paananen, Henry Katzman, Dr. Susan Bartlett Foote, Dr. Pat Corrigan, Dr. Alice Holstein, Rev. Barbara Meyers.

The core working group can appoint people who are not members of the group as officers. This first board will serve less than a year, until June 2020. After June of 2020 when we will have an election where all members can vote on officers, the core working group will disband.

The bylaws specify the following officers of the UU Mental Health Network:
President
Vice President
Secretary
Treasurer
Three Directors without Portfolio

Do you have a desire to serve in any of these positions until next June to get the organization off the ground? You do not have to be a member of the core working group to be considered for these positions. If you would like to talk to me about this, let me know at com_minister @ mpuuc.org. Please let me know by August 16 if you are interested.

Our Covenant

The following is a covenant that the early participants in the UU Mental Health Network created to govern their relationships with each other and those outside the group.  The intent is to have all members of the UU Mental Health agree to abide by it.  Comments and reflections are welcome 

UU Mental Health Network Covenant

Keeping a covenant requires commitment, and work, and includes promise-making, promise-breaking, forgiveness and reconciliation. A covenant means walking together in this process of being human. 

As leaders of the UU Mental Health Network, we covenant to:

  • Offer support to each other, to the UU community, and society at large on mental health-related issues
    • We will be respectful of each other and of UUs and other people who we interface with.
    • If we have differing views we will seek to discuss them peacefully and respectfully keeping the goal of being helpful to and serving individuals with mental health difficulties and their loved ones in congregations and in the wider society.  
    • We will seek to understand problems that people in congregations are living with mental health challenges, and become a voice for them in the denomination and beyond.
    • We will be attentive to mental health-related problems of people of differing ethnicities, people born in different cultures, and people with differing sexualities and gender identities.
    • We will accept that each person’s experience and perception is valid.
    • We will do our best to speak and write openly, honestly, and respectfully, with clarity, and tact, practicing compassion towards ourselves and others.
    • We will do our best to listen carefully, with an open mind and open heart, to what others say.
    • We will do our best to assume good intentions in others.
    • We may talk honestly about our own mental health experience, but we won’t give other people advice on medical or alternative treatments.  
    • We will respect confidentiality.
    • We will highlight problem areas with suggested changes for improvement and for seeking justice.
    • We will look for the ethical/moral/religious aspect in the issues we are addressing, relating them to UU Principles when appropriate.
  • Keep a list of resources available in our local communities and beyond
    • We will give support and use our knowledge of options and resources available.  To give options, we will cultivate a network of referrals to organizations.
    • We will continue learning about the field of mental health, both its history and the new researches in the field.
    • We will reflect on our own accomplishments

 

  • When the covenant has been broken, that is, when one of these promises isn’t kept, we will figure out how to get back into covenant. The person who has broken the covenant will work with others in the covenanted community to determine what needs to be done in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation to get back into covenant.