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 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 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 ((IMC).

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. Click on Conference Brochure and Program Book for the materials that advertised and were distributed at the conference. 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.

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.

Currently the Leadership Group of the IMC meets monthly on the third Tuesday of the month at 9am at Meier Clinics in Wheaton IL on the even months of the year, and by conference call on the odd months. The organizing goals for 2014 include developing geographical cluster of local faith communities in Winnetka, Northwest suburbs, Elgin, Wheaton, and Aurora.

Meier Clinics Foundation, a not-for-profit 501c3 entity and a member 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.