A message from Rev. Denise Cawley, Assistant Minister for Pastoral Care

Like many of you, I grew up in a family that had many people suffering with both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health diseases and disorders. There was lots of shame and cruel jokes shared about the people suffering and no one talked about the long-term impact of all those of us family members who were also without support and feeling all the shame. Treatments were often cruel and even inhumane. It is not hard to imagine why people have attached so much stigma to getting help for their brain.

Our American health system has this odd map where we act as though parts of the body are separate planets. Teeth and eyes get separate insurance policies. We don’t treat hearing as though it impacts all of the rest of the body. Mental health has been very limited and not until more recent years was it even remotely covered like other healthcare. You know this. I am just pointing out the hypocrisy and asking you to do all you can to release shame from getting mental health help. How anyone could go a lifetime without ever needing help for anxiety, depression or other issues would be as if our head was not a part of the rest of our body.

Everything in our physical, emotional, and spiritual beings is a system needing tending. You hear me talk a lot about spiritual practice. It is essential. Like water. We at UUCW are here to teach you how to care for your spirit. Reverend Suzelle and I, both design experiences to help you go deep into your hurts and get to the core work of being the best humans you can be to help us all work to make this world the vision our UU values ask us to carry forth.

Hearing the shocking news of not just Sue Morgan’s passing but how she died took me by surprise. I had gotten to know Sue and visited with her often. She was smart and bright and concerned for her future. Like many of us humans, who struggle with health issues, family stresses, and concerns about aging, Sue had all those and she had a variety of traumas and mental illness. Sue was getting help in therapy and medical care.

Everyone copes with mental health in different ways. I know many of you are feeling loneliness, depression, anxiety, troubles and hurts. Myself and our Pastoral Care Team are here to hold you in this time. We are also going to always encourage you to seek therapy, go to your doctor, explore if medication is needed for your health. As UU’s we believe in science and science tells us that our mental health is connected, it is part of our body and it does not draw a line on a map dividing our mental health from anything else.

I will talk more about death by suicide at Sue’s memorial on Saturday. The family encourages you all to join in the service. I hope you come. Pastoral Care Companions will also be available for listening. You can contact me to request an appointment with them. We also have referrals for therapists and mental health practitioners.

Personally, I LOVE what I learn in therapy. As a minister, I am required to have ongoing mental health care in the form of both therapy and spiritual practice. If I could afford it I would go even more often. That is how much I get out of it. I also have minister check-in groups and am monitored by our UU programs. I say that to tell you – therapy and mental health care is the cool thing to do. It transforms you. I want you to have that kind of health. There is no shame and actually, there is power in asking for help. Please let me know if you would like an appointment with a pastoral care listener, if you need to talk to me about our UU values and how they relate to suicide, mental health, and your spirit. I also have referrals for other experts in our community that may be the right fit for you.

With lots of love and care,

Reverend Denise