Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Transliterature Partners with the UCC Mental Health Network


“Every person has value and worth 
and deserves love, dignity and respect"

The UCC Mental Health Network
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After extensive conversations, Transliterature is partnering with the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network. As part of this, I have officially been invited and confirmed as board member. The organization consults and advises the national church and local parishes on mental health issues. The Mental Health Network (formerly the Mental Illness Network) was founded in 1992 with a grant from the American Missionary Association of the United Church of Christ. The goal of this partnership is to continue the work of the Mental Health Network in building and improving systems for parishes to enact a greater degree of value, worth, love, dignity, and respect for persons with diverse mental conditions, health needs, and experiences of illness. Likewise, the Network will build on and extend Transliterature's project of facilitating movements toward understanding and justice into non-academic communities where new research and activism can have create day to day improvements.

While serving on the board, Transliterature will continue to offer a ranger of resources for schools, workplaces, and churches regarding gender, sexuality, disability, mental health and a range of communities and embodiments. The time commitment will be minimal and the work is Pro Bono. As a result, academic and consulting work will continues press on. Indeed, the great value of the partnership is the mutual benefits both organizations will offer on a shared mission to generate livable environments and justice in the world. Stay tuned to www.ThingsTransform.com and mhn-ucc.blogspot.com for more information as well as more ways to get involved.

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Talks with the UCC Mental Health Network began in 2015, when Bychowski co-hosted a workshop at the Widening the Welcome conference in Hartford, CT. Extending from Transform Talk principles, the workshop took a look at how mental diversity and challenges exist on the personal, institutional, and systemic level. People shared stories, asked questions, and offered ideas on how to better engage a range of mentalities and embodiments from depression, schizophrenia, autism, dysphoria, and more. Participants were open with personal stories and collective struggles against systems of exclusion and shame. Tears were shed and afterwards, the group left with ideas and resources that would be brought back to local communities and national organizations. Few problems are fixable in one workshop, but just as the Widening the Welcome conference built on the Mental Health Sunday of 2013, continuing the conversation and making incremental improvements can have massive systemic effects.

The origin of the workshop came from the work of the Reverend Dr. Sarah Lund. In 2014, Lunch published Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church. She continues to be a champion for access, justice, and pride for peoples with mental illnesses, especially in Churches. In our early discussions, Lund was passionate in developing practical steps for improving the day to day life of people in parishes that often fear or segregate them because of mental illness. Combining her workshops and Transliterature's Transform Talks seemed like a natural and effective way to approach the dual needs for critical challenges to ableist culture and building lasting practices that would ensure a more livable lives for members of communities. I was proud to work with the Reverend Dr. Lund at the workshop as I will be as part of the Mental Health Board in years to come.

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The UCC Mental Health Network offers a variety of tools and best practices. Currently, the Network offers a range of Congregational Toolkits: Becoming a WISE Congegation for Mental HealthDementiaIntroduction to Mental IllnessPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Mental Health Ministry with Children and Families, and the Substance Abuse Toolkit. Beyond these offerings, the Network also serves as a hub to connect different communities with organizations with further specializations.

Transliterature is proud to develop these programs alongside the center's current offerings. In the past few years, additions have been made to the Resources for Teachers archive, offering advice and models with which classrooms can be more accessible to a wide range of embodiments, disabilities, and mental health needs. In particular, students as well as teachers have been getting use out of the terminology recommendations for discussing disability. No list of words are exhaustive and all language should be reviewed for effect as well as changes in culture. For this reason, the central focus of Transliterature remains the publication of articles, notes, and lesson plans that tackle specific issues in the spectrum and intersection of disability, gender, and sexuality. Following in the tradition of digital humanities public scholarship, www.ThingsTransform.com is at its best when networks build on networks, bridging the divide between public and private, universities and churches, classrooms and communities, high and low theory. Solidarity and coalition building remains central to the work #TransformSchools #TransformChurches.

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