This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and community members are invited to come together Tuesday in Niagara Falls to support those dealing with mental illness and help break down the stigma that prevents so many people from getting help.
Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, Inc. is joining Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to host the eight annual Interfaith Community Prayer Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding on Tuesday, a day that’s been designated as one for national prayer for mental health.
The event will take place at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 822 Cleveland Avenue, Niagara Falls, at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 9.
“It’s about an hour long. There’s music, and prayers, and readings from many different traditions,” said Rev. Mark Breese, Agency Minister for Community Missions.
Among those leading the service this year are:
- Rev. Vince Eisaman – Pastoral care provider at Memorial Medical Center and pastor of Lewiston’s United Baptist Christian Church
- Rev. Raymond Allen, pastor of Bethany Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Niagara Ministerial Council
- Dinah Porter — Community & Cultural Advisor of the All Our Relations Project, Native American Community Services of Erie & Niagara Counties
- Rabbi Ellen Franke and Bill Bell — Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls
- Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. — President emeritus, Niagara University;
- Fr. Raphael Barberg – St. George Orthodox Church, Niagara Falls
- Kuldip Singh Cheema – President, Niagara Sikh Association
- Joyce Sconiers — Niagara Wellness Connection Center and God’s Woman Vanessa Scott Outreach Ministries
This is the first year the Sikh community is taking part in the service.
The wide range of faith leaders helping with the prayer service really points to the wide range of people impacted by mental health issues in our community every day.
Mental illness knows no bounds of religion, race, or economic status.
“One in five people in the United States in any given year will experience mental illness,” Rev. Breese pointed out. “One in 25 will experience a serious disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and 20 percent of youth will experience some form of mental illness.”
But, with proper treatment, there is hope for recovery, with many people living full lives.
“For a lot of folks, recovery from mental illness is really managing symptoms, to be able to get through each day. For others, it’s getting to a point where they’re not symptomatic at all,” Rev. Breese said.
“But there’s a wide range of what recovery looks like for people,” he added. “And really our role as a community, as a society, is to help folks get to that place where they’re able to reach the most potential that they’re able to and have as full a life as they can.”
Community Missions does a lot to help, offering everything from day and residential mental health programs to crisis services, including the homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry, clothes closet and more.
There is a significant correlation between homelessness and mental illness.
“And it’s easy to understand. Trouble balancing your check book, trying to keep focus. It’s really easy to have things slide and have it where you end up homeless,” Rev. Breese said.
“So for us at the Mission, it’s a through track for someone coming into the shelter who has a mental illness that we can get placed into our programs,” he said, “and that can actually break that cycle of homelessness for them.”
Still, many people are hesitant to get mental help because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
One major goal of Tuesday’s interfaith prayer service is to help break down that stigma and make sure people with mental illness and their family members know they are supported by the community.
Rev. Mark Breese joined the News 4 Weekend Wake Up team Sunday morning to talk about Tuesday’s Interfaith Community Prayer Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding. Watch the video below to see our coverage.