The Gift of Listening

By Catherine Downing and Elizabeth Downing
posted with permission

As the holiday season goes into full swing, we are aware of what comes with our celebrations: lots of activities, generous dessert tables and endless gatherings. It is, indeed, a time to be surrounded by family and friends. Most of us greet this time of the year with open arms and excitement; we look forward to spending extra time celebrating with those closest to us.

However, as we embrace this time of the year, there are those who see the holidays with a much different outlook. Your loved ones living with mental health conditions may view the holiday season as a gauntlet of triggers and with overall dread. For many, interactions with particular family members or having to be on point in large group settings can create feelings of anxiety and need for isolation. Continue reading

Seven Things Families Can Do to Support a Loved One Living With Mental Illness

Seven Things Families Can Do to Support a Loved One Living With Mental IllnessIt’s hard to overstate the impact that caring family members can have in the lives of individuals dealing with serious mental illnesses. Those living with mental health challenges may engage with their families far more than their mental health care providers, and everyday interactions with parents, children, spouses, siblings and other relatives play a pivotal role in helping them pursue recovery. Below are seven things family caregivers can do to support a loved one in their struggle with mental illness. Continue reading

A Well World: Beyond Awareness

Through the efforts of many advocates, thankfully there is a growing awareness of mental illnesses and the struggles of those who live with them. But, on its own, just knowledge of the hurdles faced by individuals living with mental health conditions doesn’t necessarily provide help.

I talked with our members about what others could do to provide support and encouragement. It turns out, there are many ways to assist that aren’t really complicated or take a lot of effort. I’ve made a little list of some simple ways to move beyond mere awareness and into action. Continue reading

It’s the Staff

It's the Staff

Ericka and Gemma (second row, second and third from the left) with Well Community members at the Fall 2018 Spiritual Retreat

A while ago, P.T., a member of The Well Community, was asked, “What makes The Well a special place?” He listed a number of things such as being treated as a human being, having a safe place to go to and having spiritual as well as practical needs met. Then he paused and added, “Really, it’s the staff.”

The Well provides services, programs and meals for Well members with a small, hardworking staff. “The Well would not be what it is today without these people who run it,” said a volunteer. Indeed, along with Executive Director Alice Zaccarello, Program Coordinator Ericka Ruiz and Assistant Program Coordinator Gemma Cardenas make quite the dream team when it comes to loving the members of The Well. Continue reading

A Retreat of Faith and Rest

For many Well Community members, faith provides a place of refuge and strength in the midst of the chaos of mental illness. But, as is the case for most who struggle with serious mental health challenges, getting away to rest and cultivate their faith is a luxury that’s out of reach. The Well Community’s twice-annual overnight spiritual retreats enable them to escape the noise of the city and provide time to reflect and regroup. Continue reading

A Well World: Thanks for Giving Day

It was a great day. One hundred nineteen people participated with The Well Community. Some of them were also among the more than 70 gathered to celebrate partnership, generosity and the hope for recovery. By the end of the day, $48, 249 in contributions were made by people who truly care. That total allowed us to also receive a $20,000 matching grant kindly provided by Shirlee and Charles Bealke, Vicki and Paul Cardarella, Kristi and Scott Coleman, Elizabeth and Ryan Schorman, Karen and Bret Schuch, Cindy Carpenter-Smith and Alice Zaccarello. Continue reading

Donated Shoes for Suicide Awareness

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It was a ceremony on the fourth floor of the Old Red Museum in downtown Dallas that no one should have to attend, but perhaps everyone should witness. It was the 10th annual Suicide Prevention Day event hosted by the Greater Dallas Suicide Prevention Coalition. The program is held in honor of those who took their lives in Dallas county and surrounding areas each year. Displayed around the room were 565 pairs of shoes, representing every life lost to suicide in 2017. After the ceremony, all the shoes were donated to The Well Community. This is The Well’s fifth year to accept this generous donation. Continue reading

Four Ways Churches Can Help Prevent Suicide

Four Ways Churches Can Help Prevent SuicideSuicide is an issue the church cannot afford to ignore. In a LifeWay Research study nearly a third of churchgoers said they’d lost a close family member or acquaintance to suicide. Of those, over a third said their loved one attended a church at least once a month prior to his or her death.

Those wrestling with suicidal thoughts and those who love them are in the pews of our congregations. Churches have a great responsibility and opportunity to reach out in compassion to those who are struggling. Continue reading

A Well World: Trapped by Circumstances

“Almost all poverty is fundamentally the result of a lack of options. It is not that the poor are lazier, less intelligent, or unwilling make efforts to change their condition. Rather it is that they are trapped by circumstances beyond their power to change.” When I came across this quote from Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S., I have to say I was stunned at how succinctly he captured the realities of the daily lives of many members of The Well Community. Continue reading

Rooted in Friendship

Rita, Viola, and Sharon - Rooted in FriendshipRita, Viola and Sharon always sit together. Viola is Sharon’s mother, and Rita is Sharon’s best friend. The Well Community is their meeting place. “Rita was my neighbor at the apartment building I lived in and invited me to come to The Well with her one day. She has been coming for years, but I joined about six years ago. We come here most days and talk to everybody,” Sharon says. Continue reading