mental health

Anxiety

People coping with fear and anxiety swing back and forth between responses as the situation, and perceptions of it, change. We panic. We grasp for assurances and control. We deny. We try to understand. (photo © istock.com/wildpixel)

As the effects of COVID-19 grow, I am observing a variety of emotional reactions in myself and others. COVID-19 touches everyone’s life. If it isn’t personal illness or loss, we contend with separation, loneliness, deep uncertainty, inconvenient grocery shopping and accessing services that used to be readily available. Children are at home, incomes are at risk.

Immigrants in crisis

Lule Begashaw is a psychotherapist and team lead at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. (Photo by: Nafkot Begashaw)

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.” 

Choosing to be present

Andrew Ardell brings a global perspective to his work at Communitas Supportive Care Society. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Ardell)

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.

We are all created wonderful

New Dawn Educare Center caregivers and clients make dumplings. (Photo courtesy of New Dawn)

A New Dawn Educare Center resident cares for a pet. (Photo courtesy of New Dawn)

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.

Nourishing body, mind and spirit

Realizing the interconnectedness of mental health and wellness may be key in coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic has forced Canadians to learn to cope with forced isolation, loss of work and social events, and an uncertain future. For a church community accustomed to weekly worship services and small group gatherings, learning how to maintain a sense of community and foster wellness among members presents an unprecedented challenge.

National Council of Persons with Lived Experience appoints new chair

Ken Reddig of Pinawa, Man., has been appointed as the new chair of the National Council of Persons with Lived Experience and its representative to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) national board of directors. Reddig is a former housing worker with the North Eastman Regional Health Authority and past director of the Eden Foundation, where he worked with Manitoba Housing to develop a 45-unit housing project for people living with mental illness.

‘I am getting help now’

Guerres Lucien, outside her home in Lahoye, Haiti, is a participant in an MCC-supported community mental-health project with partner Zanmi Lasante, the Haitian branch of Partners in Health. (Photo by Paul Shetler Fast)

Noel Derenis, centre, who has major depression, stands outside her home in Lahoye, Haiti, with her team of community mental health workers Joseph Benissois, left, and Saint-Hilaire Olissaint, who have helped Derenis to regain energy to care for herself and her family. (Photo by Paul Shetler Fast)

“Close your eyes and imagine you are walking to your garden,” says Saint-Hilaire Olissaint, a community mental-health worker. His calm, soothing voice carries over the din of the nearby street market and the curious chatter of the children watching nearby.

Holding out the Christ-light 

"I will hold the Christ-light for you / in the night-time of your fear. / I will hold my hand out to you, / speak the peace you long to hear." (Image by Johannes Plenio/Pixabay)

“We can all have good mental health. It is about having a sense of purpose, strong relationships, feeling connected to our communities, knowing who we are, coping with stress and enjoying life,” says a statement by the Canadian Mental Health Association. 

Avoiding avoidance

Avoidance may temporarily decrease your stressor, but it doesn’t solve the actual problem. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

There are strategies you can use to help when you feel overwhelmed. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Facings your fears and stressors will better your life, Laura Abraham writes. (Photo courtesy of Laura Abraham)

Do you ever find yourself starting something and not completing it? If so, then you’re familiar with avoidance behaviours.

‘Acceptance without exception’

‘David and Saul,’ by Ernst Josephson, oil on canvas, 1878

‘David would play his harp, and Saul would feel better. David would mediate the spirit of life and make the evil spirit depart from Saul,’ (Artwork: ‘David and Saul,’ by Julius Kronberg, oil on canvas, 1885)

“And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (I Samuel 16:23).

David would play his harp, and Saul would feel better. David would mediate the spirit of life and make the evil spirit depart from Saul.

Suicide isn’t painless

Nick Brandt, front row second from right, with his family in happier times. (Photo courtesy of the Brandt family)

(Photo courtesy of the Brandt family)

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.

Meeting the mental health needs of students

RJC students writing final exams in the school’s chapel. The pressure of assignments and exams is among the many stresses that can lead to mental health issues for some students. (Photo by Bev Epp)

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.

‘Poetry and art for mental health’

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)

Poet Robert Martens shares his work at the Hear and See: Art and Poetry for Mental Health event in Abbotsford, B.C., on May 3, 2018. The exhibit, sponsored by the Communitas Supportive Care Society, gave voice to 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.

Depression resurrection

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.

Small-town suicide

I wrote this story two years ago, and since then another suicide has occurred and been mourned, in a neighbouring community. That man I did know. To remember both of these men who left behind wives, children, even grandchildren, today I publish it. Let’s learn how to handle mental illness in the church in a way that embraces rather than isolates.

It is with a heavy heart that I write today, and even now I debated sharing this. I do so because I believe that the story I am about to share is one with a lesson that we, the Mennonite church, need to learn.

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