Event Recap: "Where Mental Health and Social Isolation Meet Discipleship"

On April 21, 2018, Missions Fest Vancouver and Sanctuary Mental Health partnered to host a seminar: “Where Discipleship Meet Mental Health and Social Isolation.” Ward Memorial Baptist Church (a Missions Fest partner church) kindly hosted the event.

The presenters at the event were:

  • Kate Dewhurst, Services Coordinator at Sanctuary Mental Health
  • Will Kozushko, Depression Advocate
  • Dr. Claudia Rossetto, Church Relations/Seminars Coordinator at Missions Fest

The workshop was in preparation for the 2019 Missions Fest Conference theme: “Mission: Discipling.” The purpose was to call for reflection and action around the intersection between Mental Health and Social Isolation. This initiative was also partly a response to the Vancouver Foundation question: How can faith communities better organize themselves to help create a more connected Vancouver? Jesus’ call to Missional Discipleship is good news to both social isolation and mental health challenges.

Each participant of the workshop was invited to share a word that came to mind when they hear Mental Illness and Social Isolation. These were the words:

overcoming, loving, passion, shame, pain, amigdala, stuck, hidden, beloved, normal, outreach, community, iceberg, compassion, loneliness, pervasive, sensitivity, education, misunderstanding, disappeared, aging/withdrawn, understanding, sadness, alone, voices, cherished, help, communication, support, awareness, tears, empowerment, trauma, fear, hope

The workshop introduced first the lethal danger of social isolation, the stigma around it, and the ways to help at a systemic and at an individual level. The second part was mental health literacy and the process of stigma in mental health. The third part was a brave and vulnerable story telling of a gentleman and his story of depression. His story was powerful. It educated and inspired many to share their own stories as a way to de-stigmatize mental health challenges. The fourth part was an opportunity for action and immediate engagement. Three organizations: Servant Partners, Metro Vancouver Alliance, and Frog Hollow Neighborhood House, briefly presented the work they do to address social isolation and mental health challenges in our city. They were available during the break time for conversations. The last part of the workshop was a presentation of Missional Discipleship.

"Missional Discipleship" stirs different memories and associations for people. Some positive and some not so positive. For the sake of the workshop's discussion, Missional Discipleship was introduced as a framework of five principles and three loving movements that meaningfully meet social isolation and mental health. The five principles are:

  • Wholeness
  • Mutuality
  • Intentional
  • Transcendence
  • Sustainability

The three loving movements are:

  • Upward (loving God and ourselves)
  • Inward (loving community)
  • Outward (loving God’s world)

May God enable us to see our neighbour not as a threat, but as a promise regardless of his/her social or mental journey. And may we care enough to reach out as part of our life of discipleship.

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