Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finding hope amid the pain of mental illness

There was an interesting New York Times story a few days ago about a Protestant minister who is running writing workshops for psychiatric patients at a mental hospital in Queens. It's incredible work -- using the Holy scriptures and images to help inspire some of the most suffering people among us to access their creative voices. And through that, to find some of the things they lack the most: a sense of agency -- of having some kind of control in their lives (the opposite of helplessness) -- and having hope.

Minna is also in the midst of her own version of this important creative work -- she is running a six-week voice and singing workshop at a local state mental hospital. The stories she has brought back of these patients creating their own songs -- and asking for help for each other by singing them together -- have been so inspiring for me, and I hope soon to share a detailed description of some of this work. Two of my students this summer also ran a workshop for mental health clients at a day center where the clients composed their own prayers.

We often think of mental illness as so 'other' -- as something strange and far off that only happens to people who are locked away in some giant, cold instutution. But, in fact, it is widespread and touches us all. It is hard to find hope amid its inexplicable afflictions. Kol HaKavod -- more power to you! -- to all who do this Holy work of helping find voice and hope amid it!

1 comment:

pixymagic said...

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