Submitted by Dr. Beverly P. Lyons
May is mental health awareness month. On Sunday, May 16, 2021, Grace Episcopal Church (GEC) participated in the 2021Weekend of Faith for Mental Health encouraged by New York City's First Lady Chirlane McCray and ThriveNYC. This year’s theme "A Path to Recovery," incorporated mental health issues due to COVID-19. Beverly Lyons, Maudica Phillips-Dillon and Merle Grace (of the Health and Wellness Outreach Ministry) provided important highlights concerning mental health including the definition of mental health and why it matters. Good mental health allows our minds to function well so that we can Live, Love, Laugh and Learn. Mental illness is NOT imaginary, a character flaw, untreatable, something to “get over.” One in five persons experience adverse mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic increased mental health challenges exponentially. Hence, our levels of stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, coping, and emotional well-being have all been tested. Therefore, we are encouraged to: remain positive; focus on our strengths; connect with loved ones; express our feelings; exercise—if well, go out for a walk to enhance happiness. Christians are reminded to be good stewards to each other as stated in the Bible (NIV version)—2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 1 Peter 4:10; and Matthew 25:35-36.
It was acknowledged that grief is rather difficult to manage during the COVID-19 crisis. The end-of-life situation is uniquely traumatizing for a few reasons: sudden death; the dying person has to be alone. This causes a feeling of powerlessness among families, friends, congregants, and clergy—unable to provide comfort and/or participate in customary funeral rituals. End-of-life is not the only cause of grief. Some COVID-19 survivors are left with serious aftereffects such as kidney failure requiring dialysis; lung and heart damage; amputations due to blood clots; and impaired smell/taste sensations. Some people are hypervigilant fearing the disease. Others are ambivalent and/or reluctant to get vaccinated. We were forbidden to engage in routine activities including fellowship; socializing; visitation; travel; attend in-person classes and work. Some people no longer have jobs, income, and/or housing. We have pivoted to a virtual world, many without internet and Wi-Fi access. Today, life is different—negatively affecting our mental health.
Congregants were encouraged to participate in virtual mental health workshops sponsored by the Mayor’s Office and were given two handouts: 1) Trauma Support in Communities; and 2) NYC Mental Health Resources, downloaded from https://thrivenyc.cityofnewyork.us/toolkit-and- webinars-for-faith-leaders-on-promoting-mental-health