From the Diocese of San Jose Mental Health Ministry Network (MHMN) to Candlelight Prayer Vigils for those affected by mental illness, parishes, schools, and the Diocese seek to promote mental health and well being.
Chris Miller, co-chair of MHMN and Saint Christopher youth minister, notes one in four people are affected by mental illness. Many turn first to faith leaders for support, only to face rejection or be given incorrect information. Lived experience drives Miller’s commitment to mental health ministry.
“I began as youth minister in Palo Alto, just after a second teenager died by suicide. Three more followed. I became involved in teens’ mental health. However, I couldn’t understand what compelled a teen to jump in front of a train. In 2013, while working on the east coast, I fell into deep depression with suicidal thoughts. Then I grasped depression’s effect.”
Miller, who joined the Church in 2001 as a Santa Clara University student, will work with the California Bishops to write a mental health statement. He also co-chairs the Mental Health Council for the National Catholic Partnership for Disabilities.
Miller adds, “There are good online trainings and resources for pastors and others, who work with those affected by mental health challenges.” Miller hopes these trainings will be mandated for Diocesan staff.
Santa Teresa parishioner Rich Berryessa says, “I taught psychology for 15 years. However, my knowledge of mental illness was limited until it hit home.” Rich’s son Brian died by suicide Feb. 14, 2007. Brian’s death propelled Rich and his wife Kristie to end the silence about mental illness. Working with former pastor Father Christopher Bennett and Pastoral Associate Lynda DeManti, Berryessa advocated for mental health awareness. Under Father George Aranha, mental health continues as a project of the parish’s Social Action Ministry. Santa Teresa holds an annual Candlelight Vigil to honor those with mental illness. The parish marks Mental Health Months in May and October with bulletin articles and Sunday Mass intercessions for those with mental illness. DeManti, whose family members have experienced depression adds, “In our vestibule, we display information from the National Alliance of Mental Illness about mental illness, support groups, and danger signs signaling take action now.”
For information, contact Chris Miller at Cmiller@dsj.org.