Our clients and counselling team are settling into the new space on Main Street. We’ve put up pictures, laid down area rugs, and are getting acquainted with our block’s Tim Horton’s.
I’m mindful of the low hum of activity since the move. The hum is not just the white noise units being installed. Many team members have been pouring time and effort into community work in the form of workshops and training with churches and schools in our area. Since the start of 2017, we’ve had several invitations, demonstrating keen interest and important community conversations. Here’s a quick snapshot.
June Zwier presented two public evening sessions about mental health, one focused on depression and anxiety, the other called “The Four ‘SSSS’: Silence, Stigma, Suicide, and Support” at Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Etobicoke. The organizers had no idea how many people would attend, and they estimated anywhere between 8 and 15, maybe 20 people. Over 60 people attended one evening; more than 80 people the other evening! Both events were remarkable successes. You can read more about that event here.
Betty Brouwer was invited to present an introduction to mental health at Bethel Chrisitan Reformed Church in Acton. She shared that the workshop included participants wanting to know how to support those with mental health concerns in their community, as well as those seeking information for their own journeys. Betty shared it was a great day of conversation.
Shawn Groen was invited to Redeemer University College to present to a men’s gathering on pornography. The students were presented with brain science that outlines the relational impact of pornography, and offered helpful insights into the dangers of a porn addiction, as well as strategies to overcome unwanted habits. He received great feedback on how helpful it was.
Michelle DeBoer was also invited to present at Redeemer on sexuality, looking at healthy sexuality, relationships and boundaries. In addition, she responded to a request to teach in a Burlington grade 4 classroom about bullying, a deeply relevant issue for elementary students, which also generated good conversation and insight for students.
Mark Vander Vennen and I presented two seminars on ‘Mental Health and the Church’ at True City, a gathering of Hamilton area churches. Both conversations were dynamic examples of the very active interest churches have in responding in an agile way to needs within their congregations and their surrounding community. Many voices spoke to the presence of stigma and called for churches to generate safe space for those struggling with mental illness.
Susan Winter Fledderus and I facilitated another Hold Me Tight couple’s seminar last weekend. This is now a regular program in our roster, bringing with it much hope as it addresses couple bonding in a preventative, hopeful frame. We love the buzz that comes with the program, and the enthusiasm.
All the workshops demonstrate an interest from our community partners in growing their understanding of mental health and how to care for each other. We are all very keen to support those conversations and are energized by these opportunities.
Jennifer Bowen, M.Div., RMFT, is the Clinical Director of Shalem Mental Health Network’s Counselling Services.