When I finished grad school with a master of theological studies degree, I had a lot of accumulated knowledge about theologies of liberation and a whole lot of uncertainty about how to put it into practice in a meaningful way. I knew that I wanted to do some kind of advocacy ministry around mental health and spirituality, but I didn’t quite know how to go about it, or what it would look like. I was also struggling to keep myself mentally well, and while it is possible to be a wounded healer, it’s also true that there is a reason why flight attendants instruct us to put an oxygen mask on first before attempting to help someone else with theirs: it’s easier to help another breathe when you yourself are not gasping for air.
So with deep gulps of fresh air in my lungs I’m starting to get involved in the mental health peer recovery movement, also known as the consumer/survivor/ex-patient (c/s/x) movement of people who live with a mental health diagnosis. This movement wants to transform the way that mental health is talked about and treated, and for me this extends to faith communities. I’m using my ministry and theology studies, combined with my own lived experience, to talk about stigma in faith communities and find ways to make faith communities more welcoming to people who live with mental health conditions. I gave my first presentation earlier this year at a local gathering of peers, and I am presenting a workshop this weekend at Alternatives, a national conference of the c/s/x movement. My hope is that my words and reflections will resonate, and that I can continue to meet others who share a desire to transform faith communities into places of healing and refuge, free from shame and stigma. I welcome your prayers, support as I continue to discern this possible emerging ministry.