Mental Health Education

Mental Health Education Contacts

Elsie Cline | Co-chair, Community Meals Committee & DBSA Support Group Facilitator |
Judy Diedrich | DBSA Support Group Facilitator |
Linda Hiner | DBSA Support Group Facilitator |

What We Offer

Depression/Bipolar Support Group meets every second and fourth Monday at 7:00 pm
A History of EMERGE, the Mental Health Ministry of Emmanuel United Methodist Church, from 2002 - 2005
by Margaret A. Stanton
EMERGE is the mental health ministry at Emmanuel UMC in Beltsville, Maryland. EMERGE is an acronym which stands for Emmanuel Mental (health) Education and Resource Group. The last is “silent” and a reminder that confidentiality is very important in connection with discussions at the educational programs and support group meetings offered at Emmanuel. The name EMERGE for the mental health ministry of Emmanuel has an extra meaning. The founders of this ministry had a core belief: that we need to bring the problems of mental illness into the light, to provide education for the congregation and support for persons and their families struggling with mental illness.  Although EMERGE was officially formed in May 2003, the process and inspiration really began earlier in 2002.
How did EMERGE begin? Why did we form this mental health ministry? I served on the Baltimore-Washington Conference Subcommittee on Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families from 1999 – 2005. A primary goal of the subcommittee was to educate congregations in the Baltimore -Washington Conference about mental illness and encourage them to become “Caring Communities,” United Methodist churches who have made a covenant to be in ministry to persons with mental illnesses and their families through a program of education, welcome, support, and advocacy. 
I have had a great interest in mental health for a long time. My father lived with clinical depression for much of his life and my parents were involved with a support group for many years. I am a counselor by profession and I have worked in several mental health settings.
While working with the subcommittee, I kept feeling a pull to encourage my own church, Emmanuel UMC, to get involved with mental health ministry. I felt strongly that it was important to eliminate the stigma that often accompanies a diagnosis of mental illness. I felt a program of education in the local church would be a good start. I also felt that health care should be available for all people and that mental health care should be covered by insurance in the same way “physical” health was.
I decided I would try to give a talk at the Emmanuel Church Council about mental health ministry and my work with the subcommittee. It was hard to get on the agenda so I tried to “plant seeds” about mental health ministry in my interactions with members of the Outreach and Witness Committees of the Church Council.
Finally, magically, at one Church Council meeting our ministerial assistant, Blango Ross, came up with the idea that we should have a Disability Month and each Sunday of that month we would have a speaker talk about a specific disability. Since it was then April 2002 and May has been celebrated as Mental Health Month for quite a number of years in the U.S., I volunteered to give the message on May 5, 2002 about mental health and mental illness. No one else was ready or willing to get a speaker or give a talk on a disability on such short notice. Our pastor, Rev. Richard Davis, was incredibly responsive and supportive. I gave the message that Sunday, May 5, 2002. I talked about my father, his illness and also his success in life. I urged the church to consider becoming a “Caring Community.”
As people went through the reception line after the service that day, many people told me that they had relatives who had mental illnesses. One woman, Jennie Owens, told me she was retiring soon and that when she retired she wanted to get involved in this ministry. The day I met Jennie Owens was a big day in my life. She and I eventually were trained to be facilitators for the support group that has been meeting at Emmanuel UMC since February 2004, the Depression Bipolar Support Group.
In June 2002 at another Church Council meeting we were brainstorming ideas of programs and activities for the coming year. One woman said, “I think we should become a “Caring Community.” That inspired me to make sure we observed Mental Illness Awareness Week in October 2002. I gave a short talk the second Sunday in October, a Mission Moment, and talked about “Caring Communities.”
Finally I kept feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit nudging me and telling me to get a meeting together of people from the church to talk about mental illness and what the church could do to help individuals and families who were struggling with mental illness. I decided to show the video “Creating Caring Congregations” (Susan Gregg Schroeder’s award-winning video from the California Pacific Conference of the UMC) at this first meeting and to invite the group to explore through educational programs whether they might want to form a mental illness ministry.
I sent out individual invitations to attend the first meeting in early December 2002. I sent invitations to some folks I knew were struggling with mental illness in their families. I also invited the lay leader, the person who coordinated our church’s contribution to the Community Place Café, the person in charge of visitation, the person in charge of prayer ministries, the person in charge of youth ministry, the person in charge of health and welfare, and, of course, our pastor. I intentionally tried to get a representative from each programmatic area of the church that would intersect with mental illness ministry. I also put a notice in the bulletin to invite any other interested people to attend our first meeting. That first meeting was very important. Twelve people attended that first meeting. We saw the video and then we brainstormed some action steps, activities we might undertake to help people with mental illness.
Some of the action steps we brainstormed at that first meeting became realities:

  • Plan a program for our youth about mental health / mental illness (5/2/2004 – “Day for Night” video afternoon program with separate breakout groups for youth and adults facilitated by Joyce Derby, Rick Bergmann, Carol Herder, and Pastor Richard Davis.)
  • Arrange educational meetings about different kinds of mental illness for adults as well as youth (11/18/2003 – Holiday Blues; 2/24/2004 – “Understanding Depression” video and talk by Carol Herder, pastoral counselor; “Alzheimer’s Care and Support” video and talk by Rosalind Stokes of the Alzheimer’s Association; October 2004 - “Tools for Recovery” a talk by Jeanne Scammon, past president of Prince Georges Mental Health Association; 3/7/2005 – “Coping with Depression” video and discussion facilitated by Margaret Stanton; 5/17/2005- “Dark Glasses and Kaleidoscopes,” a video about bipolar disorder with discussion facilitated by Jennie Owens and Nancy Thrush.
  • Consider offering meeting space for a support group in our church. (We not only offered space, but two members of EMERGE were trained as support group facilitators and the Depression Bipolar Support group began in February 2004 and is still going strong. Jennie Owens and Elsie Cline are facilitators and additional facilitators have been trained as well. The support group meets twice each month and is affiliated with Depression Bipolar Support Alliance [DBSA].)
  • Find out about mental health resources in our community and share with the congregation. (We gathered information about support groups in the community and put together a small directory. We set up tables in the narthex with information about mental illness resources during Mental Health Month and Mental Illness Awareness Week.)
  • Participate in the Health Fair at EUMC. (5/3/2003 – Jeanne Scammon from Prince Georges Mental Health Association had a table at the Health Fair assisted by EMERGE members.)
  • Write articles for the Lamplighter on mental illness. (We not only wrote articles for the Lamplighter, but also wrote a number of articles for the Beltsville News, which brought community members to our educational programs.)
  • Observe Mental Health Month in May in the church and Mental Illness Week in October. (I gave the message in worship several times and we had outside speakers as well: Roscoe Swann from Prince Georges NAMI gave the message in May 2003; Carol Herder offered the message “Called to Hospitality and Welcome” in May 2004; Helen Barnes from Prince Georges Department of Family Services spoke about the mental health needs of older adults in May 2005. Pastor Richard Davis who was always extremely supportive of EMERGE preached a sermon about mental illness for Mental Illness Awareness Sunday in October 2003. During one of these worship services we used a special candle lighting service to pray for persons living with mental illness, their families, caretakers, mental health professionals, and researchers trying to improve the lives of persons struggling with mental illness.)

After that first meeting in December 2002, we had three more meetings before we officially decided to become a ministry within Emmanuel United Methodist Church. We gave our ministry the name EMERGE. We spent several meetings arriving at what our mission was as a ministry. The mission of EMERGE is as follows: “… to reach out to the church and the community by:

  • offering support to individuals affected by mental illness and/or their families
  • being a positive healing force toward recovery by educating people about mental illness and mental health resources (helping people help themselves)
  • working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and welcoming all people regardless of their health condition

As time progressed, the members of EMERGE increased in numbers and in their commitment to this ministry. EMERGE supported education for the support group facilitators and paid for registration at training events. Members of EMERGE and of the congregation engaged in advocacy by signing petitions for mental health parity.
I am very proud of the work that so many members of Emmanuel United Methodist Church have contributed to in the development of this special ministry. I hesitate to list the names of those who were involved in the early years of EMERGE for fear of both breaching confidentiality and neglecting to name someone who should be recognized. I have very fond memories of Emmanuel United Methodist Church. I was sad to leave it and my work with EMERGE when my husband and I moved back to Illinois in 2005. Jennie Owens very wisely recommended that I talk with Ann Rowland and ask her if she would assume the leadership of EMERGE. Ann graciously agreed to take on this responsibility and she has been doing a very commendable job as the leader of EMERGE since August 2005.
EMERGE has served as a model and inspiration for other churches starting mental health ministries.  I provided support and consultation to Shirley Jackson, a lay member of  Clinton UMC in Clinton, Maryland as she, her pastor, and other members started a mental health ministry there in 2005. The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society has designated Clinton UMC as a Caring Community because of its commitment to education, welcome, support, and advocacy for persons with mental illnesses and their families. Emmanuel UMC has also demonstrated a passionate commitment to mental health ministry for over eight years as exemplified by its mental health educational programs and the Depression and Bipolar Support Group.
Thanks be to God for the blessings of all the dedicated volunteers who have made EMERGE a strong and vital mental health ministry in Beltsville, Maryland. 
Margaret Stanton
Leader of EMERGE, May 2003 – July 2005