“I can talk about mental health and, specifically, suicide risk, because nearly every day I ask someone if they have thoughts of wishing to die.” Ruth Bergen Braun is a recently retired Canadian certified counsellor who has first-hand experience with clients who think of suicide or have lost someone to suicide.
Focus on Mental Health
Sometimes people go through experiences that are too difficult to talk about or too confusing to articulate. Art therapy helps many people process and heal when at first the words are just too hard to find.
Communitas Supportive Care Society has launched a new peer-support website, a comprehensive site that puts mental-health resources as close as the click of a mouse.
Toward the end of All My Puny Sorrows, Lottie (Mare Winningham) sits in her Toronto apartment comforting her sobbing daughter, Yoli (Alison Pill), noting, “The pain of letting go of grief is just as painful—even more painful—than the grief itself.”
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
The words came from a place of kindness and empathy, from someone who knew the feeling. It hit me to my core, because I was empty.
Note: This reflection deals with the subject of suicide.
On Nov. 27, a Saturday, I received a long text message from my cousin Richard (I’m using only his middle name here, for privacy), also sent to other extended family members. “I hope none of you ever have to go to a pain-management clinic,” he began. “They are a joke and out for money.”
With one in five Canadians experiencing mental illness in any year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it is likely that most people might be called upon to support a loved one with a mental illness. But many people are at a loss as to how.
Over the past year, everyone—pastors included—found themselves in situations requiring problem solving and emotional fortitude. Pastor Ken Tse, from Edmonton Christian Life Community Church, talks about the stress of seeking ways to minister to an older congregation that was not tech savvy.
According to Lule Begashaw, psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the mental-health team is seeing a big increase in requests for help since the COVID-19 outbreak. She says that “newcomers are a vulnerable population that has definitely been overlooked.”
Andrew Ardell is a friendly person who smiles readily and is thoughtful in his conversation. He cares deeply about the people he serves and is aware of how much he gains from the relationships he has made through his work with the Communitas Supportive Care Society. This positive perspective is borne out of years of service experience around the world and here at home.
Health work first brought Mennonites to Taiwan in 1948 through Mennonite Central Committee’s relief work, but there was also local interest in starting a church. The Mennonite presence in Taiwan today—the Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan—has its roots in both health and church planting.
No one saw it coming. Not family, not friends, not anyone at the university he attended. On March 23, 2018, after babysitting his nieces and nephews, 18-year-old Nicholas (Nick) Penner Brandt returned to the apartment he shared with an older brother and twin sister, drank poison and died.
Are more students struggling with mental health issues these days, or are they just better able to articulate their struggles than students once were? Jim Epp doesn’t know the answer to this question.
Adriel Brandt reads his poem “The Crow” at the May 3, 2018, “Art and Poetry for Mental Health” reception in Abbotsford. In the background is the photograph by Dale Klippenstein (sitting behind Brandt) accompanying the work. Communitas Supportive Care Society sponsored the art exhibit, focusing on mental health issues. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)
Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders may not sound like subjects for art, but a recent exhibit at the Reach gallery proved that art is a powerful medium for educating and talking about mental illness.
Society is witnessing mental health struggles increase at an alarming rate, and the push for women’s voices to be heard grows stronger. At the same time, Mennonite Women Manitoba decided to travel the “road to resilience” this year for their annual retreat.
“Argh!” I cried out, as I slammed my fist down hard onto the kitchen counter. “I hate this! I’m so tightly wound up my body feels ready to split open. I can’t stand the tension anymore!”
Singing has always been a passion for Sara Fretz. Long before she took up the profession of music therapy she found music “very therapeutic” for herself through her years of growing up. But music is also prayerful, and draws her close to God—faith and singing go together for her. She “comes to herself as a person” when she sings.
After retiring from professional service almost two years ago, Valentine (Val) Warkentin found she missed her work as a counsellor and accepted an invitation to volunteer at Canadian Mennonite University.
High anxiety is a characteristic of this age. Political and economic uncertainties abound, and electronic media, purported to help people connect with one another, actually seem to make them feel increasingly isolated.
Asked how many “walk-ins” looking for help at a church are likely to have a mental illness, pastors like Werner De Jong say “the majority, for sure.”
Mental illness is not as obvious as a broken leg, but it’s just as real. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 percent of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. In one study, 84 percent of clergy say they have been approached by a suicidal person for help.
Poetry and visual art proved to be a powerful combination as members of Emmanuel Mennonite Church observed Mental Health Sunday this year on May 1.
Today begins like any other, the type that has become common for me. I cheerfully get out of bed at a decent time, feed my children a healthy breakfast, tidy up and then do a boring 20 minutes on the elliptical machine while they begin their chores. It may not sound revolutionary, but I marvel at the grace contained in these everyday happenings.
Theresa Driediger has been a counsellor for almost 30 years. “I think it’s a calling, or I wouldn’t still be doing it,” she says.