Crisis Care Team Training for Faith Groups: Helping to Overcome Barriers for Families at Risk

PREFACE

Welcome to the Journal. Our intention is to write short, yet informative, pieces about serious mental illness that will educate and inspire compassion. We know that there are numerous websites you can visit for general information about illnesses like Schizophrenia, for example. Instead of a generic list of symptoms, we're going to share about the real life situations behind the labels and diagnosis. Names and circumstances may be slightly altered, but we believe there are some exceptional individuals you should meet. People who live right in your own backyard (so to speak). So sit back, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few brief moments with our Journal.

Cindy's Story

Continuing our series on church and serious mental illness, today we're going to share Cindy's story: 

"I will give a poor example and a good one. At our previous church our son had a psychotic episode (March 2009). After time it was determined that he needed some help. We were told that my son and husband could not attend any more-- but I and my other kids could. I said no thanks.

Other side-- fast forward about 4-5 years, our current church has prayed for me and him, offered to spend time with him, and otherwise tried to reach him. He feels more accepted there, though he still will not come to service, but does go to a small group with me during the week. They understand that he has an illness, not a behavioral issue, and that some symptoms may happen as a result of his illness."

In the last few journals we touched on the barriers of judgement, or stigma, and fear related to faith groups and families who struggle with disabilities like serious mental illness. We won't be able to cover an exhaustive list of obstacles in our brief Journal post, but we'd like to touch on just a couple more: time and leadership.

Michael Beates writes in "Disability and the Gospel, How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace" "...it must be said that the other frequent challenge is the ubiquitous issue of time. Church leaders and lay people rightly understand that, in all likelihood, making a commitment to ministry among the disabled will be time- and labor-intensive. It will never be convenient and will seldom have a return on investment that shows up in tangible ways. This hurdle can only be overcome through vision - seeing past the time constraint to the transforming power of embracing the weak and broken among us." 

Mr. Beates also notes that for any effective disability ministry to take place, it must begin with the leadership in a church. "But with time constraints on all people, especially those called to lead, "time" may be the most difficult battle to win." If this is true for disability ministry in general, how much more challenging will ministry to families and individuals struggling with a serious mental illness be? Very challenging indeed, but not impossible. Our intention is to serve leaders whose precious time and priorities are limited (and rightly so!). 

Crisis Care Teams

It should be noted that the ultimate goal of developing Crisis Care Teams in our churches is to eventually do away with them. Sounds ridiculous, right? Let me explain, we would love for churches to catch such a vision for coming along side of those with significant needs, like serious mental illness, that it becomes second nature. I don't doubt that the desire is already there, what is needed are the tools that bring confidence and action. This is where CCTs come in. Through our training we will help churches in the following areas:

  • Raising the level of awareness about families at risk
  • Recognizing early warning signs to prevent a crisis

  • Responding to individuals and families at risk in a compassionate and confident way

  • Resourcing families beyond the scope of a church’s capability

  • Running long distance with people who have significant needs

Unlike church Security response teams that contain trained personnel, who are qualified to deal with various emergency situations, CCT's are designed to come alongside of families and individuals after an emergency incident or through awareness of a need within the church (request by family, pastor, etc.). Crisis Care Teams do not require legal certification, they will be trained to recognize or respond to a need and connect families with the appropriate legally certified specialists. CCT's will also be trained to compassionately assist with reintegration back into a church community.

Look for our first CCT training event in the Fall of 2017. You can begin to learn about resources available in our community in just a few weeks at the "Accessing Adult Behavioral Health Services in Arizona" free event on April 22 hosted by the East Valley Behavioral Health Coalition. Please stop by our resource table at the event and say hello.

Help is truly the bridge to hope, and that begins with all of us.

 

Deborah Geesling