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Mental health is one of the greatest challenges currently facing the western world and, by extension, the church. One in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue in any given year, rising to one in three over the course of a lifetime.

As Christians, how do we think well about mental health? How can we care effectively for those in our communities who struggle with mental illness? What can we learn from Christian tradition, practice, and Scriptures? And how do we learn to listen to one another’s stories?

Regent College and Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries are partnering to provide a series of three Saturday morning workshops exploring these questions. While each workshop can stand alone, participants will benefit significantly from attending all three.

To register or learn more, use the navigation bar to the right. Space is limited, so be sure to register early.

Cost: $50 per session ($35 for students and seniors)  

Mental Health Recovery in Relationship

With Dr. Sharon Smith and Terresa Augustine, Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries
February 11, 2017

How can Christian communities develop practical strategies for supporting members who struggle with mental illness? In this workshop, we will learn to use a spiritual care framework developed for individuals living with mental illness. Join us as we consider the specific needs of our own congregations and learn hands-on strategies of care, including Handling Crisis, Accompaniment, Welcoming and Hospitality, and Peer Support.

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Understanding Mental Illness from the Inside

With Dr. Sharon Smith and Dr. Fiona Choi, Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries
October 29, 2016 from 9:30 am–12:30 pm 

How can followers of Christ understand and support individuals living with mental illness? In this workshop we will learn and think holistically about the experience, behaviors and signs of mental illness diagnoses including bipolar mood disorder, schizophrenia, general anxiety disorder, and substance use disorder. Join us as we consider a community approach that supports individuals without stigmatizing or creating co-dependent care structures.

Mental Health, Faith & Community

With Dr. Sharon Smith, Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries
This workshop took place on June 11, 2016. 

Join us at this workshop as we consider how to approach mental health and mental illness as followers of Christ. Explore mental health models that are theologically and philosophically faithful to Christian tradition, practice and Scripture. Hear the stories of Christians who live with mental illness. Finally, learn how Christian community can more effectively attend to our collective well-being. 



Sharon Smith

Founding Director, Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries

Sharon co-founded Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries in 2011 and served as Executive Director from 2011–2016.

"Being part of Sanctuary expresses an ongoing belief that Christian communities can extend love well. Having walked through recovery, I discovered this to be true and desire it to be true for others. Sanctuary community is learning to walk this way too– facilitating safety for vulnerability, encouraging creativity, managing our capacity and free with affection. If we can do it, anyone can."

Sharon Smith earned her MCS at Regent College and her PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Her dissertation explored the meaning of spirituality for people living with schizophrenia. Sharon is passionate about working with those who experience mental health issues and facilitating their integration into spiritual communities. Her personal passion for better mental health supports grew out of her journey alongside her late husband, Alex, whose experience with depression resulted in his suicide in 2005.

Sharon has spent much of her professional career working as an occupational therapist in acute and community mental health settings in South Africa and Vancouver, Canada and helping communities better support those struggling with mental illness. From 2009–2010 she served as the Executive Director of Jacob's Well, a ministry that invites people into friendship with residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. This was followed by three years (2010–2013) with Vancouver Coastal Health as a mental health professional. Sharon retired as Executive Director of Sanctuary in February, 2016. She currently serves as a consultant for mental health organizations seeking to integrate spirituality into mental health care. Sharon is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of British Columbia.


Fiona Choi

Coach, Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries

"I once walked alongside a friend who experienced early trauma and battled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Together with a small community, we journeyed with her and gradually saw her uplifted and gain the strength in Christ to continue her walk towards mental, emotional and psychological healing. This brought me such joy. I was 14 at the time. Since witnessing the power of such transformation, I have also seen the pain of those who are marginalized for their mental health issues and struggle to be understood, even amongst those who boldly proclaim the love of Jesus Christ.

"I firmly believe that a spiritual community can provide much-needed mental health support, open avenues of communication and help remove barriers that prevent potentially healing relationships from developing. My motivation for joining Sanctuary's mental health coach program is driven by a desire to see church and parish communities work together towards healing transformation, beginning with the church and parish family and eventually extending beyond that, possibly stirring waves outside the walls and into the larger community."

Fiona has an educational background in psychology, mental health and addictions research. She is currently working on her post-doctorate, training with the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction to understand and improve treatment and health outcomes related to substance abuse and co-morbid psychiatric conditions.


Terresa Augustine

Acting Executive Director, Director of Operations and Programming, Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries

"In 2011, I attended a Sanctuary workshop on mental health and was profoundly impacted by the vision and hope of Sanctuary. Over the next few years, I walked alongside as a volunteer and community coach before being asked to take on the role of Director of Operations & Programming, and now for a short term, acting Executive Director. My involvement with Sanctuary is a response to God's invitation to facilitate and share ways to Be Christ's LOVE and light in the community. I am honoured to find myself at a time and place where I can do work that embodies Christ."

Terresa has been guiding communities, organizations and individuals from present to preferred positions for twenty years. Recognized as an innovative and strategic thinker, Terresa has worked with local, national, and international groups seeking to align themselves with changing times and needs. Through her roles as a director, adviser, and facilitator, Terresa has supported communities and organizations in the education, employment, health, justice, and faith communities.

Terresa's work experience is enriched with an MA in Leadership from Trinity Western University, a Graduate Certificate in Career Development from Royal Roads University, Education for Ministry studies through the Anglican Church of Canada, and Undergraduate Diplomas in Business and Adult Education. Most recently, Terresa served as Executive Director for The People's Law School, President of the Public Legal Education Association of Canada, and Director of Union Gospel Mission. Terresa is an adviser for the Canadian Executive Services Organization and co-founder of TaLedi Enterprise Development Inc.


Depression and the Depths of Hell

Psychiatrist and author Iain McGilchrist seeks to understand the mind and the brain in their full physical, spiritual, and cultural context. In March 2016 Dr. McGilchrist delivered the 2016 Laing Lectures at Regent College, entitled “God, the Brain, and Paradox.” In this short video, he discusses his struggle with depression and explores the costly insight gained by passing through the darkness.

Piece by Piece: Towards Mental Wellness

Mental wellbeing depends on a delicate balance of factors including genetics, emotional and spiritual health, and stable life circumstances. Since these elements rarely align, many of us experience periods of languishing mental health. For those with clinical mental illness, there is a long-term struggle that requires a holistic, daily approach to care. 

In the midst of such turmoil, how do we find the energy to get out of bed in the morning? How do we maintain our faith when God seems so far removed? What role do church communities play? And how do we journey with people who are struggling with mental health? These are just some of the questions we explore in the current edition of The Regent World.

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