The American Psychiatric Association has just released new resources on mental health for faith leaders. Thanks to our colleague Rabbi Edie Mencher for bringing these new materials to our attention. The linked resources are invaluable gifts from a partnership between the faith community and the American Psychatric Association (not to be confused with the American Psychological Association, in our awareness for very different and disappointing reasons this week.) The deeply informative manual as well as the supplementary quick reference guide should be required reading for all of our rabbinic work. For those serving in congregations, I call your attention in particular in the manual to the section on wellness, as well as the second portion of the manual focused on ways the congregation can become even more responsive to mental health issues.
I offer two additional foci for your consideration. One, mentioned briefly on page 17, cannot be underestimated. That is the power of the pulpit. On these kinds of issues, your power to open hearts and provide illumination is immense. I know of several of our colleagues who have spoken recently, often from very personal perspectives, of grief, depression and other mental health issues. They have reported to me the impact of these interventions and can feel the depth of the service they have provided.
The other focus, not mentioned explicitly, is of equal import. I speak of the importance of self-care. And, in this case, I am not back on my soapbox about wellness practice. Rather, I am referring to the importance of attending to our own mental and spiritual fitness when we are engaged with helping others attack these issues in their own lives. From compassion fatigue, through vicarious trauma to triggering of deep-seated conflict, our work both puts us at risk and REQUIRES of us that we make sure we are staying attuned to our inner lives and how they are affected by that work.
So, please, read the materials referred to here, and also take an inventory of your current state and support systems. And, as always, if you’d like to discuss these or any matters, please reach out by e-mail anytime at email@example.com.
Rabbi Rex D Perlmeter is the CCAR Social Work Intern for Member Care and Wellness