History of the Interfaith Mental Health Coalition (IMHC)

Recognizing that people with mental health needs often turn to their faith community for support, organizations all over the Chicago and suburban area have been working in partnership with faith communities to better address the mental health needs of their members. For example:

  • The Hanover Township Mental Health Board conducted mental health and faith community workshops over several years. Workshop participants identified the need for further training on mental health issues. They are working to meet the needs for collaboration and for the sharing of accurate and helpful information in the faith communities.
  • The DuPage Faith and Mental Illness Network, which included SamaraCare (formerly Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center), the local NAMI DuPage affiliate, DuPage County Health Department, parish nurses, hospitals, and mental health providers, since 1999 had organized depression screenings, worked to reduce stigma, and developed educational programming on mental illness for faith communities.
  • A grant to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital funded a project to train cohorts of local faith communities over a two year period of time, with a separate track for clergy and a separate track for pastoral care staff and lay volunteers, which helped inspire our local efforts.
  • The McHenry County Mental Health Board had successfully provided two day Mental Health First Aid trainings for clergy in their area as a springboard for local faith organizing.
  • The Linden Oaks at Edward Mental Health First Aid Training Coalition has trained 51 mental health first aid instructors and is doing similar work on behalf of faith communities all primarily in the DuPage, Will, Kane, and Kendall County areas.
  • The Meier Clinics’ Family Bridges Program has provided training on communications and conflict resolution skills to 40,000 people in the Chicago area to strengthen families.
  • As a result of the interfaith Pathways to Promise (www.pathways2promise.org) national conference in Belleville, IL in October 2009, a core group of organizations in the collar county and Northwest Cook suburbs of Chicago started seeking other local groups interested in their common vision of helping people of faith who are working with individuals and families struggling with mental health issues. Through efforts of these partners, Suburban Chicago Interfaith Mental Health Coalition (SCIMC) was formed in late 2009. It subsequently changed its name to the shorter Interfaith Mental Health Coalition (IMHC).
  • Its first major event was a conference held on Nov 9, 2010 in Elgin, IL. 72 different local faith communities participated. This included 59 clergy, 25 faith leaders, 34 active lay person volunteers involved in ministries to those with mental illnesses and their families. Its second major event was a conference held on Oct 23, 2012 in Glen Ellyn, IL. 32 ordained clergy, 40 faith leaders, and 15 lay persons were among the 155 registrants and 140 attendees. Membership self reported as 15 unaffiliated Evangelical Christian, 14 Lutheran, 10 Roman Catholic, 9 United Methodist, 7 Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, , 6 United Church of Christ, 5 Unitarian Universalist, 3 Presbyterian, 3 Jewish, 3 Baptist, and 1 Episcopalian.  Go to the resources tab for the resource info that was distributed. Throughout late 2012 and 2013 bi-monthly trainings were held on topics such as: Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health 101; Accessing Support Through NAMI; Planning a Mental Health Awareness Campaign; Navigating the Behavioral Health System; Suicide Awareness and Prevention; Child and Adolescent Mental Health Issues; Addressing Behaviors That Make Us Feel Uncomfortable or Unsafe in a Faith Community: Inviting Mutual Equality and Participation.
  • October 2012 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois: A Wealth of Mental Health Resources for Your Faith Community: Developing Collaborative Relationships That Work!
  • The third major event on January 15, 2014 was a conference co-sponsored with Pathways to Promise, our national level interfaith mental health coalition affiliate, on January 15, 1014 at the ELCA headquaarters near O'Hare airport. It was titled "Creating Hope: The Power of Faith Communities in Mental Health Recovery". Over 150 clergy, faith leaders, lay persons, family members and persons with lived experience with mental illnesses attended. Speakers included Nanette Larson, Director of Recovery Support Services for the Illinois DHS/Division of Mental Health, and Craig Rennebohm, Executive Director, Pathways to Promise.
  • September 2016 in Addison, Illinois: Celebrating Hope: Promoting Mental Wellness and Resiliency. This event with over 100 leaders was immediately followed by a two day Regional Consultant Training Institute co-sponsored with our national affiliate Pathways to Promise. 25 persons interested in developing their training and consulting skills to help develop mental health awareness programs in faith communities attended the Training Institute. 
  • October 2018 in Elmhurst, Illinois: Creating Safe Spaces: Models for MH Support Groups in Faith Communities. The event had over 80 leaders in faith community programming for persons with mental illnesses. Following keynote speaker Amy Simpston, presentations took place on how faith communities set up support groups for persons with mental illnesses using models developed by NAMI, Sidran Institute (trauma), Living Grace, Archdiocese of Chicago, Rev. Kathy Dale McNair, and Parket Palmer.

Currently the Leadership Group (and any other interested persons) of the IMHC meets monthly on the third Tuesday of the month at 9am at NAMI DuPage in Wheaton IL on the even months of the year, and by conference call on the odd months. The organizing goals for 2018 included developing geographical cluster of local faith communities in the Greater Chicatoland area by raising money for a cluster coach to assist local organizers, updating the bylaws, discussing the possibility of annual membership categories and dues, doing a conference on Sept 19th on practical small group models for mental health support in faith communities, doing a topic discussion of relevance at each bi-monthly in person meeting, and highlighting organizations and programs of interest to faith communities in our bi-monthly conference calls.  

Meier Clinics Foundation, a not-for-profit 501c3 entity and a supporter of the coalition, acts as the fiscal agent for the Coalition and holds the revenues from the Coalition’s conference events and donations and pays its obligations.