Impact of Faith on Care of Mentally Ill People

April 13th, 2012 | 72 comments

Eastern Mennonite Seminary convocation 2011

Eastern Mennonite Seminary convocation 2011

The following are excerpts from “An Ethos of Faith and Mennonite Mental Health Services” by Aldred H. Neufeldt, professor emeritus of community rehabilitation and disability studies at the University of Calgary and past chair of Mennonite Mental Health Services. His article was originally published in the Journal of Mennonite Studies, (vol.  29, 2011, pages 187-202), along with many other articles on the history of Mennonite involvement with mental health, including a piece by Titus W. Bender ’57 that covered the 1942-1965 period (pages 45-60). The excerpts are published with permission.

That Mennonite development of mental health services in the post World War II (WWII) period was an intentional expression of faith in action cannot be doubted. The experiences of Conscientious Objectors (COs) working in state hospitals during that war . . . created an awareness within the larger Mennonite community not only about the dire conditions within those institutions, but also a concern that better forms of care and treatment should be available to its adherents and others experiencing serious forms of mental disorder.

As early as 1944 a proposal was put forward to the Emergency Relief Board of the General Conference Mennonites that serious consideration be given to establishing a Mennonite mental health institution, a resolution agreed to in 1945. A similar motion was adopted by the conference of Mennonite Brethren in 1946.
Henry A. Fast, one of the key actors in promoting these resolutions, later recalled:

Our dedication to the principle of nonresistance by itself did not inspire concern for the mentally ill. It did help to intensify our care about people and give meaning, direction and quality to the way we worked with the mentally ill.

These resolutions from two of the largest Mennonite conferences prompted Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to undertake a study on whether or not to set up mental health services which, in turn, led to a “master plan” to develop a series of centers in the United States.


The following seven values pertain to the development and provision of [Mennonite] mental health services:

1. Mutual aid. Mennonites/Anabaptists have a rich history of practicing mutual aid in a manner similar to that of the early church as set out in several letters by the Apostle Paul, where the community comes to the aid of the person or family experiencing a significant trouble or loss. Documentation from all MMHS [Mennonite Mental Health Services] centers indicates mutual aid to be the driving concern for their founding… [But] it should be noted that such services weren’t kept exclusive. All centers …almost immediately extended their services to include people in need from other faith and cultural backgrounds.

2. Christian compassion and love. This second value expressed by two related terms speaks to the motivation of personnel for being involved in mental health services. Both terms reflect a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it, and arise out of a tradition of seeking to live a life of discipleship… “Christian love” was the term used to describe the work of COs in mental hospitals and, later, was seen as a primary motivating value in developing of MMHS centers. In practice, the value from early on was expressed in terms of developing a “total milieu” with a Christian emphasis. The first Medical Director of Brook Lane spoke about the importance of “Christian Living” and the impact that staff had on people served: “I don’t see this as ritualistic but more fundamental, incorporating the concept of love, understanding, tolerance and empathy. Each and every member of our organization has a very definite moral obligation in this respect.”

3. Respect for dignity of the person. The phrase “dignity of the person” as an expressed value is relatively recent in origin, largely arising in the 1970s and ’80s in the secular context when disability advocates pursued development of service approaches that were sensitive to individual needs and interests. There is an argument to be made, though, that this value was at least an implicit, if not explicit, part of how personnel sought to relate to people receiving services provided by earlier Mennonite mental health or disability agencies. The theological view that each person is a child of God, no matter what their condition or state of life, has deep roots in Anabaptist tradition. One can infer the presence of such a value in the work by Mennonite COs in mental hospitals during WWII. These were young men and, later, a few women, by and large raised on farms, with little or no training or experience relevant to working in large mental hospitals. Yet, as documented in a recent book on the CO experience by Steven Taylor, they gained a reputation of being able to make small positive changes to life on the wards by showing genuine interest in the persons they served. It is reasonable to argue that an implicit understanding of the distraught, naked, long stay inmates of mental hospitals as each a “child of God” characterized the understanding of these untrained COs seeking to make such individuals’ lives just a little bit better.

4. Community. The communal ethic is widely recognized as a defining characteristic of Anabaptists. Various writings as well as personal observation identify a number of practices in the various Mennonite mental health services that seem consistent with this ethic: placing emphasis on building relationships, trusting others to do “what is right,” sharing resources, seeking to build consensus whenever possible, “servant leadership” and so on…. More recently developed programs continue to strive for a communitarian emphasis, both in their internal programs (transdisciplinary teams, with blurring of lines between professions, were evident within the MMHS and other centers well before they became accepted within the public sector MH programs), as well as in their relationship to the sponsoring Mennonite community and the larger geographic communities within which they exist.

5. Integrity and ethical rigor. An emphasis on integrity and ethical rigor is evident in literature on the earliest Mennonite mental health services to the present. There was an obvious commitment to provide services in such a way that it is above reproach, and to doing what is right and being trustworthy in all relationships… For example, one noted psychiatrist-educator from the New York state mental health system who became familiar with MMHS centers observed: “The staff…whether they were Mennonite or not – were approaching their jobs with a commitment and dedication which I have found to be unique to the programs of the MMHS…although the words were the same, the music was different…. Whether Mennonite or not, personnel were approaching their jobs with a dedication and commitment I have found unique to MMHS.”

Titus Bender

Retired EMU sociology professor Titus Bender '57 wrote "The Mennonite Mental Health Movement and the Wider Society in the United States, 1942-1965" in the fall 2011 issue of Journal of Mennonite Studies.

6. Pursuit of high quality programs by incorporating knowledge-based evidence with values. In North America the MMHS centres were preceded by careful study of leading programs in Europe and North America by an MCC Mental Health Study Committee in the years 1945 and ’46.

7. Peace and justice. The young farm COs found that physical and sexual abuse of patients was not uncommon. But far more common was the immense neglect in wards of grossly over crowded institutions where there often was only one paid attendant for 100 to 200 “patients.” According to Steve Taylor’s recent study, somewhat different strategies were used to confront such systemic practices, depending whether COs were of Quaker or Mennonite background. Those of Quaker background gravitated towards active public advocacy, including public exposes of abusive conditions in such national media as Life magazine and others, and prompted development of a highly effective advocacy organization in the USA known as the National Mental Health Foundation. Mennonites felt that tackling systems change was too complex and would not change conditions very easily, and so decided instead to see about changing conditions in small ways on the wards during the war, and on the war’s conclusion to set up their own small mental health facilities. Value statements on peace (i.e. non-violence) and justice (promoting the common good) continue to be present in values expressed by current Mennonite mental health programs, sometimes expanded to emphasize programming that focuses on peace within families.


Editor’s note: Aldred H. Neufeldt’s reflections on the history of the mental health movement included observations on the importance of employing leaders committed to Mennonite values, rather than professionals committed mainly to mental healthcare:

The MMHS experience also suggests that if a program had difficulty in finding and retaining key executive and clinical leaders with Mennonite/Anabaptist values, almost invariably its linkage with the sponsoring community seemed to deteriorate with consequent negative impact on their internal social cohesion and ability to deliver quality programs.

That most Mennonite mental health services in the USA have survived and thrived for a period of up to six decades in what surely is one of the most turbulent of human service environments anywhere, with almost none either closing or leaving their Mennonite connections, is a tribute to their ability to retain key leadership, many of whom continue to relate to each other through Mennonite Health Services….

It is useful to remember that the dominant leadership model for mental health services in North America and Europe up until the 1970s was for the senior psychiatrist to be the hospital director. Mennonite programs were amongst the earliest to separate administrative leadership from professional leadership… [The] administrative leaders of the first MMHS centers all had personal experience as COs, and thereby the credibility to launch the first mental health services.

72 Responses to "Impact of Faith on Care of Mentally Ill People"

  1. Otilia says:

    I do believe all of the ideas you’ve presented to your
    post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work.
    Still, the posts are very quick for novices.

    May just you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

  2. Superb post.Never knew this, appreciate it for letting me know.

  3. data hk says:

    We enjoy, cause I came across what exactly I had been seeking Impact of Faith on Care of Mentally Ill People – Crossroads Online. You’ve concluded my personal several day extended look! Our god Thank you gentleman. Have a very nice day. Cya data hk

  4. Alisia Posle says:

    Even though I very rarely write them, but there was no way I could avoid it today. This is actually a good service that deals with online counselling

  5. happy wheels says:

    May just you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?

  6. jack Mamba says:

    Really an Cool Post. Thanks for sharing with us. Hope Other readers might also feel the same. visit:

  7. Emory Scott says:

    NASA has called this the best exercise ever conceived of by man (don’t quote me on that but look it up). The positive effects rebounding has on you the mind body are far reaching, but one benefit that stands out is the one to your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is responsible for delivering nutrients and getting rid of waste. You have 3x more lymph than blood, but your lymph doesn’t have an organ to pump it like blood does with the heart. So it relies on your movement to get it going. Up and down motion such as jumping, jogging, and even walking are particularly effective in getting your lymphatic system moving. This is where many of rebounding’s benefits lie. You can nearly effortlessly get those benefits that come from moving your body up and down against gravity. Besides that, rebounding has you performing a lot of work (like work as physics defines it) relatively easily, so you burn more calories with less effort. Additionally it oxygenates your cells, gets your blood pumping, thoroughly works out your muscles in a functional way, is fun, can be conducive to a meditative state, and much more. And it’s so easy to just stand up on the trampoline a bit and gently move up and down, it almost seems to good to be true but it isn’t.

  8. Jared Maxwell says:

    In fact, a problem with sleep is the inability to keep sleeping with quiet sounds, minor physical difficulties or troubles such as temperature changes, etc. In your life, you fall asleep again. I found new one online pharmacy and have already ordered a drug to improve my sleep. By the way, they have free shipping, which made me happy.

  9. says:

    Informative post. Thanks for sharing such an awesome post. Have a Look: Manipur Pincode

  10. Jackie says:

    Wonderful articles. Thanks for taking time in posting such an good articles with us. visit: Top 5 Best Baby Walker Below 500 to Buy

  11. Adamz Sendler says:

    I like your writing tips

  12. Nancy says:

    It’s great that you liked it. Especially if the fonts are very beautiful

  13. eashtonmiles says:

    To help in such a difficult situation, you can study the works of other professors. But sometimes a correct translation is required, especially when it comes to medical terms. I advise you to use the services of translate from japanese to english The service specialists will provide professional assistance with high-quality translation of all terms. You will be happy with the result.

  14. Jack Sparrow says:

    Informative post. Thanks for taking time in posting such an wonderful post with us. Visit:

  15. shz says:

    Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more. Zonnepanelen Bocholt

  16. shz says:

    Wonderful illustrated information. I thank you about that. No doubt it will be very useful for my future projects. Would like to see some other posts on the same subject! Zonnepanelen Wemmel

  17. shz says:

    Your site is truly cool and this is an extraordinary moving article. Zonnepanelen Borgloon

  18. shz says:

    I see some amazingly important and kept up to length of your strength searching for in your on the site Zonnepanelen Vilvoorde

  19. shz says:

    It is extremely nice to see the greatest details presented in an easy and understanding manner. Zonnepanelen Bree

  20. shz says:

    This is very educational content and written well for a change. It’s nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post! Zonnepanelen Baarle

  21. shz says:

    The worst part of it was that the software only worked intermittently and the data was not accurate. You obviously canot confront anyone about what you have discovered if the information is not right. Zonnepanelen Diepenbeek

  22. shz says:

    I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot! Zonnepanelen Arendonk

  23. shz says:

    wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated. Zonnepanelen Dilsen-Stokkem

  24. shz says:

    Please give some advice on how to achieve this kind of posts. Zonnepanelen Aartselaar

  25. shz says:

    I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one Zonnepanelen Genk

  26. shz says:

    They’re produced by the very best degree developers who will be distinguished for your polo dress creating. You’ll find polo Ron Lauren inside exclusive array which include particular classes for men, women. Zonnepanelen Zoutleeuw

  27. shz says:

    Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot. Zonnepanelen Gingelom

  28. shz says:

    Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I’ve been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing. Zonnepanelen Zemst

  29. shz says:

    Cool stuff you have and you keep overhaul every one of us Zonnepanelen Hamont-Achel

  30. shz says:

    My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more! Zonnepanelen Zaventem

  31. shz says:

    it’s really cool blog. Linking is very useful have really helped Zonnepanelen Halen

  32. shz says:

    You completed a number of nice points there. I did a search on the issue and found nearly all people will have the same opinion with your blog. Zonnepanelen Oppem

  33. shz says:

    I liked your article and I hope you will have many entries or more Zonnepanelen Ham

  34. shz says:

    A debt of gratitude is in order for giving late reports with respect to the worry, I anticipate read more. Zonnepanelen Wezembeek

  35. shz says:

    wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated. Zonnepanelen Hasselt

  36. shz says:

    I liked your article and I hope you will have many entries or more Zonnepanelen Tremelo

  37. shz says:

    this blog was really great, never seen a great blog like this before. i think im gonna share this to my friends.. Zonnepanelen Hechtel-Eksel

  38. shz says:

    Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot. Zonnepanelen Tienen

  39. shz says:

    Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I’ve been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing. Zonnepanelen Heers

  40. shz says:

    The blog and data is excellent and informative as well Zonnepanelen Tielt-Winge

  41. shz says:

    Very good points you wrote here..Great stuff…I think you’ve made some truly interesting points.Keep up the good work. Zonnepanelen Herk-de-Stad

  42. shz says:

    I really enjoy reading and also appreciate your work. Zonnepanelen Tervuren

  43. shz says:

    The material and aggregation is excellent and telltale as comfortably. Zonnepanelen Heusden-Zolder

  44. shz says:

    If your looking for Online Illinois license plate sticker renewals then you have need to come to the right place.We offer the fastest Illinois license plate sticker renewals in the state. Zonnepanelen Ternat

  45. Jack Mamba says:

    Thanks for taking time in posting such an great content with us. Visit: Tamil Baby Boy Names

  46. Ośrodek Terapii Kryształowy Płomyk to miejsce stworzone z paski i miłości do pomagania, tworząc tak wyjątkowe miejsce jak nasz ośrodek terapii byliśmy pewni, że nasze terapie będą skuteczne, ponieważ od samego początku wszystkie działania były nastawione tylko i wyłącznie na osiągnięcie jak najlepszych rezultatów w leczeniu uzależnień od alkoholu, narkotyków i hazardu.

  47. John Perry says:

    Are you ready for Christmas? Are you looking for something festival to decorate your yard? Then, you shouldn’t miss the Christmas inflatables! You can never be wrong to decorate your yard or garden with a lighting big inflated Santa or Reindeer. I am a big fan of inflatables and I am sharing this link with lots of inflatables. You will absolutely make your house the talk of the town during this holiday with these things!
    christmas inflatables 2022

  48. trendoldum ile sosyal medya paketlerini sizde gönderebilirsiniz

  49. We provide clients with professional guidance through all aspects of launching and operating a fund. We also incorporate offshore companies in Bahamas, BVI, Cayman Islands, Panama, and the United States. incorporation bahamas

  50. Anika Prado says:

    Jabodetabek private tutoring services with teachers going to the house. More than a huge selection of active tutors you will need to teach various skills and lessons for kids to adults … click for further

  51. Erin Cribbin says:

    Very best along with Lowest priced Jabodetabek Exclusive Coaching, your staff and also trainers occur to your dwelling, collection your examine routine which enables it to opt for any area with study … visit for more information

  52. Virgilio Trapalis says:

    You could possibly will find a cheaper fee as opposed to table above, ensure again with regards to the qualifications of your teacher / Kindergarten teacher recommended to your account … click for more detail

  53. Joseph Whitaker says:

    Just admiring your work and wondering how you managed this blog so well. It’s so remarkable that I can’t afford to not go through this valuable information whenever I surf the internet!

  54. This is quite a .good blog. Keep sharing. I love them Are you also searching for ? we are the best Houston airport shuttle
    for you.

  55. houston cab says:

    this is such a great post for me and for others as well. I really love this post, as well as it’s very useful for me .thanks and keep it up .Taxi Houston

  56. Georgie French says:

    Join our esteemed language you are studying course at and begin a linguistic adventure of any lifetime. Immerse yourself from the richness of this target language, guided by expert instructors who know the nuances and intricacies of effective language acquisition. Whether you’re a novice or a semi-pro learner, our tailored curriculum will empower you to definitely navigate diverse cultures with finesse and flair. Tap for latest information.

  57. Kathlen Eden says:

    This is an important thing for psychiatric patients. Besides, relieving stress or having a relaxed mind is one of the other positive effects. To do these things, you can let them play hill climb racing.

  58. Interesting post. Keep posting more of this kind.
    Houston to Galveston Shuttle

  59. Luka says:

    Mennonite Mental Health Services (MMHS) centers were founded with the primary objective heardle of providing mutual aid. These centers, established within Mennonite communities, recognized the importance of supporting individuals dealing with mental health challenges and promoting overall well-being. The founding documentation of these centers reflects a strong commitment to mutual aid as a driving concern.

  60. zeesy jewellery says:

    Bracelet I found it worth reading. I just want to ask you to write more

  61. studio elite says:

    It was quite good to me and really helped me. I wish to return the favor and assist people in need, just like you. Best Pakistani and Indian Dresses in Chicago

  62. Duncan says:

    “I stumbled upon your blog and was impressed by your in-depth knowledge on the IMPACT OF FAITH ON CARE OF MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE. Your insights align perfectly with the services provided on my SMA MEP Estimate MEP Estimating Services in USA . It’s great to find valuable resources like yours in the online space.”

  63. Albina says:

    Thanks for providing recent updates regarding the concern, I look forward to read more. rabbit

  64. Alex says:

    The digital era has ushered in an avalanche of software tools, each promising to be the next big thing. Sifting through this ever-growing list to find the most suitable options can be daunting. But don’t worry, help is at hand. If you’re looking to stay updated with genuine software reviews and the latest buzz in the tech world, you can see it all here at It’s your curated guide to the software universe.

  65. Asad Umer says:

    This is a great opportunity to visit such a site and I’m glad to know about it. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to take advantage of this opportunity Mobile accessories price in Pakistan

  66. This is a great opportunity to visit such a site and I’m glad to know about it. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to take advantage of this opportunity Smart watch price in Pakistan

  67. Ali Hamza says:

    This presents a wonderful opportunity to explore such a website, and I’m delighted to have come across it. I appreciate you affording us the chance to make the most of this offer Home accessories in USA

  68. Faizan Ali says:

    This is a great opportunity to visit such a site and I’m glad to know about it. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to take advantage of this opportunity Drinking water in Dubai

  69. Helenwatcher says:

    Rolex SA è una società svizzera (con sede a Ginevra) importante nella produzione di pregiati orologi da polso, nonché una delle più grandi aziende operanti nel settore dell’alta orologeria.

  70. ecube says:

    This presents a wonderful opportunity to explore such a website, and I’m delighted to have come across it. I appreciate you affording us the chance to make the most of this offer Pet supplies accessories in USA

  71. ecube says:

    This provides an excellent chance to investigate this website, and I’m thrilled to have discovered it. I’m grateful for the opportunity you’ve given us to take full advantage of this offer Home accessories in USA

Leave a Reply