Quakers, Spirituality, and Mental Health

During the pandemic, Carl Blumenthal was one of the team members at New York City’s mental health hotline. “I had many encounters of a spiritual kind,” he recalls. “It’s amazing how deeply you can connect with people over the phone, or even through chats and texting. When people are vulnerable, and reaching out for health, you’re their lifeline.”

“Essentially,” he says of this work, “you’re recognizing that of God in everyone.” As a Friend and a person with bipolar disorder, Carl is drawn to the ways Quakerism can speak to people’s mental condition, and has as far back as the days of George Fox.

To determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, visit Mental Health America at mhascreening.org for a free, anonymous, and confidential test. You can also call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline—dialing 988 works nationwide to access compassionate, accessible care and support for mental health-related distress.

Carl’s also written about Quakers and mental health for Friends Journal.

3 thoughts on “Quakers, Spirituality, and Mental Health

  1. Thank you, Carl Blumenthal, for being a proponent of mental health awareness.

    Our cultural silence, caused by fear and shame, is part of why we lack funding and facilities and have a shortage of therapists to help the MH crisis we’re in now. We and legislators can’t fix what we’re afraid to talk about, and little known is that 20% of us, people at work and our neighbors, are walking around with mental illness. (According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 58 million of us in 2021.)

    Due to shame and fear of discrimination, I struggled in silence for decades with mental illness. I was fortunate to have people around me who saw a problem and encouraged me to seek help and step out of the darkness to feel life again.

    I hope this video encourages folks to end unnecessary suffering and reach out and talk to a trusted friend or their family doctor about a mental health issue.
    The hotline 988 is not only for people with suicide ideation; it encourages anyone in crisis to call and talk.

    1. Thank you, Ray, for highlighting the support needed from professionals and other caring individuals when we’re faced with mental health challenges. I tried to pass for “chronically normal” before becoming a peer counselor. New York Yearly Meeting’s Differently Abled Friends and Allies (DAFA) support group is a safe space where we can not only share our struggles but also band together for social change, whether our dis-abilities are visible or not. If you haven’t already watched Nichole Nettleton’s QuakerSpeak about DAFA, I encourage you to do so.

  2. Indeed a mystical experience of the Spirit speaking to you and a bi-polar high are almost indistinguishable.
    I experienced this at FGC Gathering in 1982 when I said to God “I will be faithful to you all my life”. A few days later I was given the message “All is for Joy”. I recommend the newsletter “What Canst Thou Say?” in which many Quakers over the years have told of such spiritual openings which do often combine with mental breakdowns/breakthroughs. Thank you Carl for your forthrightness and kindness.

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