On early evenings, Riley MacElveen meets with caregivers and people who are dealing with mental health issues twice each month at the North Sound Church in Edmonds. The church has been recognized statewide for its work with mental health problems.

On early evenings, Riley MacElveen meets with caregivers and people who are dealing with mental health issues twice each month at the North Sound Church in Edmonds. The church has been recognized statewide for its work with mental health problems.

Interfaith group’s focus at Edmonds church: ‘Caring for each other’

EDMONDS — Corky Fadry likes to open church doors, literally and figuratively.

On Tuesday evenings twice a month, he greets visitors to the North Sound Church in Edmonds.

Their’s is an interfaith group, but it’s okay for people without faith to attend.

They meet to help each other and themselves. In doing so, they discuss a topic often uncomfortable to the masses. That subject is mental health. They are a faith-based National Alliance on Mental Illness support group.

“It is a group that has so much caring for each other,” Fadry said. “That in itself will get you a couple of steps in the right direction.”

Fadry, who faced his own challenge a few years ago, remembers feeling apprehension before he went to his first meeting. His anxiety didn’t last long. That was more than two years ago.

“Everyone was so warm and welcoming,” he said. “I became aware of the fact that they are not only there to help and to talk about their particular situation, they are also there to get better.”

The support group bills itself as a gathering for people who want to share their life experiences, spirituality and coping skills in living with a mental illness. It is open to those living with a mental illness and care givers, including family members and loved ones.

It was more than three years ago that the Edmonds church decided to address mental health issues from a community perspective.

The church worked with NAMI members from Snohomish County and agreed to provide space and support for meetings.

In the fall of 2013, the church also presented a series of sermons called “Our Holding on to Hope: Mental Health and the Community of Faith.” The talks were led by Pastor Barry Crane and Edmonds-based clinical psychologist Sarah Groen-Colyn.

Crane said the church understood that delving into mental health issues wouldn’t be a quick-fix discussion, but a long-term challenge.

“We are very committed to it,” Crane said.

The mental health community has appreciated the church’s initiative.

North Sound Church has received a NAMI Washington faith community of the year award.

Riley MacElveen, 30, attends the church and the support group meetings. He’s thankful that North Sound stepped up to make a difference with a societal problem that affects millions but often is left for individuals and their loved ones to tackle alone.

“We don’t like to have divisions within our group,” he said. “Our group really wants to erase the lines between a care giver and a care receiver.”

He likes the meeting format, which includes announcements, deep breaths, discussion and prayer book-ended at the beginning and end.

He hopes people find the meetings helpful and the approach disarming.

“Just the thought that they made the choice to come and be with us is a big benefit to everyone,” he said.

The goal is not to influence anyone’s spirituality, he said.

“There is no risk in coming to a meeting,” he said. “The catch is there is no catch.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

Support group

A faith-based support group for people living with mental illness and their caregivers meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the North Sound Church, 404 Bell Street in Edmonds. Contact Ronn Larpenteur at ronnlarpenteur@msn.com.

To learn about support groups, go the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness www.namisnohomishcounty.org.

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