Quakers and Mental Health


My work really helps me to understand and
remember my own humanity and my own struggles and fragility. It just keeps me human and keeps me connected
to God by being around these folks who have this really deep, cool expression of faith. My name is Melody George, I live in Portland,
Oregon, in the southeast Portland neighborhood. I am a licensed clinical social worker here
in Portland, and I work with people with pretty severe mental illnesses who have been institutionalized
for decades and who have some pretty sad, hard stories with stigma and with trauma. One of the things that I’m passionate about
is mental diversity in faith communities, and those people finding community. There is so much fear and stigma around mental
illness and around the expressions of that, I think people kind of get shut out of community
because of fear and stigma. I think Quaker communities have a really unique
opportunity to invite people in and include people, because we do believe in that of God
in everyone, and that God speaks for all of us. I really see mental diversity as a gift to
a community, and that the folks that I serve and that I’ve worked with are very resilient. If they tell you their stories about how they’ve
gotten through their traumatic situations and what’s helped them to keep going, faith
is a huge part of that. And we have a lot to learn from their strength
and resilience. It’s pretty amazing when a community can
open their hearts and their minds to someone’s gifts and to the gift of mental diversity,
and I think it’s also good for the individual because they want a place to give back and
a place to contribute fully; I think we all want that. A lot of the people I serve, when they try
to enter a community, people are afraid, people put up barriers, people put up boundaries
and people want to help them by referring them back to the mental health system—which
I’m a part of so I’m not against—but I think we can work together, because I feel
like there’s more to life than your mental health. A person’s identity is so much more than
that and they have a lot to offer and contribute in community. Our testimony to that of God in everyone and
to equality is really unique in that we can be a safe place and we can be an affirming
place and we can be an inclusive place that welcomes people, really welcomes and values
people with different experiences and helps them heal, and they can help us heal. It’s kind of cool that way.

2 Comments

  1. Sole to soul said:

    Recognizing that  a person is more than their illness, is important. thanks

    March 30, 2018
    Reply
  2. Jules Rensch said:

    difining anything or anyone as "mental illness" is , in itself, part of the problem
    …to be it, first you have to see it….action follows thought…

    December 23, 2018
    Reply

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