As a social worker, Melody George feels passionate about what she calls “mental diversity” in faith communities. How are Quakers in a unique position to build this diversity?
Read Melody’s in-depth Friends Journal article on this topic:
Imagining a Trauma Informed Quaker Community
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My work really helps me to understand and remember my own humanity and my own struggles and fragility. It just keeps me human and keeps me connected to God by being around these folks who have this really deep, cool expression of faith.
Quakers and Mental Health
My name is Melody George, I live in Portland, Oregon, in the southeast Portland neighborhood. I am a licensed clinical social worker here in Portland, and I work with people with pretty severe mental illnesses who have been institutionalized for decades and who have some pretty sad, hard stories with stigma and with trauma. One of the things that I’m passionate about is mental diversity in faith communities, and those people finding community.
Fear and Stigma Around Mental Illness
There is so much fear and stigma around mental illness and around the expressions of that, I think people kind of get shut out of community because of fear and stigma. I think Quaker communities have a really unique opportunity to invite people in and include people, because we do believe in that of God in everyone, and that God speaks for all of us.
Mental Health Diversity as a Gift
I really see mental diversity as a gift to a community, and that the folks that I serve and that I’ve worked with are very resilient. If they tell you their stories about how they’ve gotten through their traumatic situations and what’s helped them to keep going, faith is a huge part of that. And we have a lot to learn from their strength and resilience.
It’s pretty amazing when a community can open their hearts and their minds to someone’s gifts and to the gift of mental diversity, and I think it’s also good for the individual because they want a place to give back and a place to contribute fully; I think we all want that.
Contributing to Community
A lot of the people I serve, when they try to enter a community, people are afraid, people put up barriers, people put up boundaries and people want to help them by referring them back to the mental health system—which I’m a part of so I’m not against—but I think we can work together, because I feel like there’s more to life than your mental health. A person’s identity is so much more than that and they have a lot to offer and contribute in community.
That of God in Everyone
Our testimony to that of God in everyone and to equality is really unique in that we can be a safe place and we can be an affirming place and we can be an inclusive place that welcomes people, really welcomes and values people with different experiences and helps them heal, and they can help us heal. It’s kind of cool that way.
- Melody says that while often people want to help and so refer a person to the mental health system, there is more to a person than just their mental health. How can Quaker communities be open and supportive to those with mental illness beyond referring them to institutional help?
- Melody George says that people with mental illness have a lot to contribute to our communities, including helping us heal. Do you have an experience of healing as the result of a relationship with someone who has a mental illness?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.