In March of 2014, I met Eric Riddle, a fellow pilgrim on the road to faithful recovery from mental illness. We had both seen the good and bad of mental health care and faith community ministries and thought God might use us to contribute to the solution rather than just complain about the problem. We committed to meet weekly for walks, Scripture study, intercessory prayer, and brainstorming.
We spent a great deal of time at first dealing with our own brokenness. Eric and I both had received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and had been treated both as inpatients and outpatients. Beyond our mental health diagnoses, we shared the pain of broken relationships, the joys and concerns of parenting, our hopes and fears for the faith communities, our local community, our nation, our world. Our genuine prayer was that God might use us as wounded healers, partnering with churches and mental health providers to promote well-being.
We met weekly for nine months before what was conceived over coffee at Jill’s Diner was given birth in a circle of tattered yet cozy couches at The Living Room (7 – 8:30 pm; corner of 14th & Sycamore, Columbus, Indiana). From that first meeting, nearly four years ago, we haven’t missed a single week. And each week, we review the following guidelines to keep track of our goal for getting well.
- We are a safe group: We recognize the volatility of mental health struggles. When someone is experiencing elevated symptoms, we may gently provide one-on-one support to determine the best course of action. Leadership has the right to contact clinical providers and family friends when concerned for the health of an individual.
- We are a peer-led group: Peers encourage other peers and provide each other with a vital sense of mutually supportive relationships, valued roles, and community. When we think that our own life experience might be helpful to the person speaking, we offer (but never insist) to share the lessons we’ve learned.
- We are not a clinical group: We are not professional psychiatrists, psychologists, social health workers, or clergy. We may discuss our own medication experiences or encourage discussing medicine changes with doctors, but we do not suggest what medicine is best for another individual. We do encourage talk therapy as a valuable compliment to recovery.
- We are a referral group: We are aligned with the local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organization and use them to refer individuals to local resources and provide educational information.
- We are a wellness group: Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential. Physical, social, emotional, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual wellbeing are all addressed as part of a holistic lifestyle that everyone can pursue.
- We are a faith-based group: Our aim is to display Christ-like hospitality to children of God from all walks of life and diverse faith experience backgrounds. We draw on the resources of prayer, scripture, personal testimony, and fellowship. Our goal is to inspire and affirm others with hope and love.
- We are an accountability group: We are honest with ourselves and others. We set goals for ourselves that are specific and attainable. We check in with each other to see if we are working towards meeting our goals. We do not tell others how to fix their problems, nor do we expect others to solve our problems.
- We are a confidential group: We are not bound by HIPAA rules, but we do respect individual’s privacy. Conversations during a meeting are not discussed with those not at the meeting and vice versa. The exception to this guideline is that leadership may discuss issues at any time and emergency situations may be discussed outside of meetings. In non-emergency situations, confidential information may only be shared with other group members if given permission.
- We are a respectful group: We listen and do not cause distractions. Please silence cell phones. Side discussions, flirting, and inappropriate commenting are discouraged. Disrespectful commenting on Faithful Friends social media posts may also be addressed. If too much of a distraction, an individual may be asked to step away from the meeting.
- We are a fun group: Socializing outside of the group is encouraged. With the permission of an individual, phone numbers and/or email addresses may be shared. Parties, social events, invitations to faith communities, and friendships are great ways to build relationships outside of meetings!
- We are an inclusive group: We respect diversity and refrain from criticizing other’s spiritual views, even when they differ from our own. We do not make disparaging remarks about other’s race, ethnicity, gender, mental health diagnosis or sexual orientation.
- We are a responsive group: The facilitators are welcome to your questions, concerns and ideas. Email to talk to one of us or to set up a meeting.