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Area providers team up for community prayer service for mental illness recovery and understanding

Editorial by Community Missions

Mon, Sep 28th 2015 07:00 am

A pair of Niagara's largest mental health service providers is coming together to support a day of recovery and understanding with an interfaith community prayer service at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Community Missions and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will host the event at First Congregational United Church of Christ (822 Cleveland Ave., Niagara Falls). The service is part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, a national event with a dual purpose of raising public awareness about mental illness, and breaking down the attached stigma that often discourages people from seeking help when needed.

The statistics surrounding mental illness in the U.S. state nearly one of every five adults - 43.7 million - experiences mental illness in a given year. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, due largely to treatable medical conditions.

"There is so much misunderstanding and fear about mental illness," said the Rev. Mark Breese, agency minister at Community Missions. "There is this belief that there is no hope for people with mental Illness. That simply is not true. Excellent treatment is available and recovery is possible. There is hope, and we, the community, need to be part of giving that hope to our family, friends and neighbors who struggle with mental illness."

Leaders from diverse faith traditions are expected to join mental health consumers, their families and community members to seek guidance and help in replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and life in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.

"This interfaith gathering presents a welcome opportunity for the entire community to join in support of neighbors, friends and family members who too often are misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized because they suffer from anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness," Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said.

The service will include representatives from several faith traditions across the Niagara Region, including: Rev. Marna Pritchard, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ, offering prayer from the Protestant tradition (she will lead the prayer service along with Breese); Joyce Sconiers, care coordinator at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's Niagara Wellness Connection Center (presenting music from the African-American Christian tradition with God's Woman Outreach Ministries Inc.); Dr. Ellen Franke, rabbi at Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls (offering prayer from the Jewish tradition); Dr. Mohammad Salem Agwa, senior lecturer of Arabic at Niagara University and imam of The Islamic Cultural Center of Niagara Falls (offering prayer from the Islamic tradition); Dr. Jeannette Choho Ludwig, associate professor of Romance languages and literatures at the University at Buffalo (offering prayers from the Buddhist tradition); Pete Hill, community and cultural services director of the Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara County (NACS) (offering cultural insights and prayers from a Haudenosaunee Native American perspective); and Sister Beth Brosmer, executive director of Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry & Dining Room in Niagara Falls (offering prayers out of the Roman Catholic tradition).

The service is open to the public, with light refreshments to follow. For more information, contact Breese at 716-285-3403, ext. 2259, or [email protected].

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