Often faith community pastoral care leaders and teams are “first responders” to significant mental health difficulties. The needs are huge. We know that at least 20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives—affecting not just them but also their loved ones.
A 2017 report by Canada’s Chief Medical Officer suggests that 9 million Canadians over the age of 15—one-third of Canadians—have experienced some form of domestic violence. There is an epidemic of suicides in various communities today. And we know that significant poverty can both accompany and aggravate mental health problems. Faith communities are on the front lines of all of these challenges.
We know too that members of faith communities are by no means immune themselves. Sometimes—regrettably—faith communities have contributed to pain, hurt and trauma. But we also know that faith communities can be places of real healing and recovery. At Shalem we want to support congregations in their mission to effectively extend the mercy of God to neighbours who are suffering.
Shalem offers congregations a spectrum of tools needed for this journey.
Congregational Assistance Plan
From time to time we all face emotional and relationship difficulties – some more serious than others. Often our usual ways of coping carry us through. But sometimes they don’t seem to be enough.
How can churches help? 67 churches (and counting!) from seven denominations across Ontario are finding the Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) to be an exciting, affordable tool for extending the hand of Christ to those among them who are hurting. With CAP, faith communities make available to all of their members, and to some in the community at large, up to six counselling sessions from a local, Master’s degree-level Christian psychotherapist, anonymously and at no cost to the client. Schools are now also doing the same! Clergy Care provides counselling support specifically for pastors and their families. Contact Marg Smit-Vandezande, Shalem’s Director of CAP Services, for more information.
FaithCARE (Communities Affirming Restorative Experiences)
One of the mysteries of faith is that some of the most difficult, painful and damaging conflicts between people take place in church settings. You likely know of congregation-based disputes that have left people hurt and embittered—perhaps even questioning the faith itself.
With FaithCARE, Shalem has assembled some of the best practitioners of “Restorative Practice” in Ontario to help your church transform conflict, repair harm, deepen relationships and build stronger, more connected congregations. Over the past 10 years we have partnered with over 70 congregations from 10 denominations to become “conflict-friendly”, relationally healthy congregations. Churches can also offer restorative practice services to their broader community—facilitating difficult community conversations in a safe way. Contact Anne Martin, Shalem’s Director of Restorative Practice Services, to find out about your church can engage FaithCARE.
WrapAround is meant for people who are facing simultaneous, overwhelming challenges that lead to hopelessness and despair, such as mental illness combined with generational poverty combined with special family member needs, medical needs, and so forth. These are situations which tend to burn out caregivers in churches and the mental health system itself. But WrapAround is a proven, effective way of wrapping community supports around people based on their hopes, dreams and strengths, and putting them in charge of reaching their goals. Faith-based WrapAround is a way of organizing and sustaining the God-given impulses within a congregation to care for those who are most vulnerable—without burning out caregivers. For more information about how your church can offer WrapAround, contact Elske De Visch Eybergen, Shalem’s Director of WrapAround Services.
Become a volunteer for, or a supporting church of RE-create, Shalem’s dynamic drop-in art studio for street-involved youth in downtown Hamilton. Partner with at-risk young people as they create positive, hopeful futures, with the support of community volunteers, artists and churches. Contact Betty Brouwer, RE-create’s Artistic Director, for more information, or to arrange for a studio visit.
Linking Lives/Building Attachment
It is well-known among child protection services that a sizable number of foster and adoptive parents are people of faith, and that congregations often serve as crucial supports to these families. At Shalem, we seek to encourage and support this practice. For foster, adoptive and other parents in your church, Linking Lives/Building Attachment provides cutting-edge mental health counselling support for children and youth who struggle with attachment disorders due to early trauma and neglect, and their caregivers. The approach positions parents as key members of the treatment team. One of Shalem’s therapists, Betty Brouwer, is one of two trainers in Canada in this effective method of psychotherapy support, and she serves as Board Chair of the US-based Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Institute. Contact Betty to find out more.