NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – As we get ready to welcome October, leaders with Community Missions and the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center are getting ready to mark Mental Illness Awareness week with the seventh annual Interfaith Community Prayer Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding.

This year’s service will be held October 3 at 3:30 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ at 822 Cleveland Avenue in Niagara Falls.

MORE | Click here for full details about the upcoming service.

This week, clients and staff with Community Missions’ Niagara Visions Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services (PROS) outpatient mental health clinic helped complete a serenity fountain that will be used during the service.

Community Missions’ Agency Minister Rev. Mark Breese spent Wednesday morning building the fountain base for PROS clients to help cover with a water-proof paper mache shell. The goal is to involve many people in the construction of the fountain, since so many people in our community are affected by mental illness.

One out of every five adults in America experience a mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.

MORE | Click here to learn more about mental health by the numbers.

Often, Rev. Breese says, there is a serious stigma surrounding mental illness. “It’s no different than a broken arm. You get treated for it. The same thing with mental illness,’ Breese explained. “Recovery is possible. It’s not something that necessarily has to ruin your entire life.”

The PROS program is one of several mental health services offered by Community Missions and the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, two of the biggest mental health services providers in our area.

Since 2011, Niagara Visions PROS has helped individuals to achieve the recovery goals they set for themselves. “Learning basic skills, coping skills, understanding their mental illness, what helps treat it, medications, things like that,” explained Carla McKenna, the intake coordinator for the PROS program.

The Licensed Creative Arts Therapist working with PROS clients to finish the serenity fountain Wednesday told News 4 there’s a lot of therapeutic value to the project. “We teach them a lot of social skills so they learn how to get along with others, how to function together as a group, as a team. That’s always really helpful for them,” Sandie Crocker said. “Plus, just being able to express their creativeness is helpful as well.”

The final fountain masterpiece will be featured in Tuesday’s community prayer service, which will bring together people of all backgrounds and faiths.

“I am a minister and I believe prayer changes things,” said Joyce Sconiers, the care coordinator for the Niagara Falls Memorial Wellness Center. “We’re all lifting up prayers in our own area and I think when the individuals come in, they feel validated, they feel that they are part, so I think that will be one of the greatest benefits.”

Other leaders scheduled to speak during the Interfaith Community Prayer Service include:

  • Dr. Mohamed S. Ahmed, MD, PhD, P.C., of Masjid Tawba of Niagara Falls will offer prayers from the Muslim tradition. Dr. Ahmed is also Medical Director at Roswell Park Hematology-Oncology of Niagara;
  • Rev. Raymond Allen of Bethany Missionary Baptist Church and President of the Niagara Falls Ministerial Council;
  • Rabbi Ellen Franke of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls;
  • Pete Hill, Community & Cultural Services Director of the Native American Community Services of Erie “All Our Relations” Project Director at Native American Community Services of Erie & Niagara Counties, Inc. (NACS);
  • Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., President Emeritus, Niagara University;
  • Judy Maggs from St. James United Methodist Church, Niagara Falls—Service Music;
  • Rev. Marna Pritchard, Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ;
  • Jonathan Sandberg from Calvary Episcopal Church, Williamsville, NY

The service is open to the public and light refreshments will be served.