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Published: Saturday, 2/21/2009

Ministry helps those affected by mental illness

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Patty and Garry Hulisz, with daughter Sarah, center,  are  starting the I AM HIS ministry at Alexis Congregational Church. A The first public meeting Thursday will feature a documentary. Patty and Garry Hulisz, with daughter Sarah, center, are starting the I AM HIS ministry at Alexis Congregational Church. A The first public meeting Thursday will feature a documentary.
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Garry Hulisz and his wife, Patty, are starting a new Toledo ministry they hope will help parents avoid the tribulations and trials they struggled through for more than 10 years.

Their problem: Raising a daughter afflicted with a mental illness that was not properly diagnosed, Mr. Hulisz said.

Their resulting troubles ranged from strained interpersonal relationships to 3 a.m. phone calls from police.

Their daughter, Sarah, 29, began experiencing symptoms of mental illness when she was 15 and did not receive the right treatment for more than a decade, until she was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, Mr. Hulisz said.

People would tell me, You re really a lousy parent. They only knew what my daughter would tell them and she was not thinking clearly, she was not on the right medication.

When an individual is affected, the whole family is affected in one form or another, mostly negatively, until the individual is actually diagnosed properly, Mr. Hulisz said.

That is why the Huliszes are starting I AM HIS, a Christian-based mental health ministry. The name is based on the initials for Individuals Affected by Mental Health Issues Socializing.

The group will hold its first public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when it shows a 36-minute documentary, Out of the Shadow, at Alexis Congregational Church, 6202 North Detroit Ave.

I AM HIS will hold fellowship hours after the 11 a.m. Sunday services at the church beginning March 1, Mr. Hulisz said.

The Rev. Ed Fairchild, pastor of Alexis Congregational, said an outreach to families dealing with mental illness is very much needed. We re a small congregation and it s a step out for us, but we re looking forward to reaching out to the community.

The movie scheduled to be shown Thursday is a shortened version, edited for faith groups, of a feature-length documentary about a woman suffering from schizophrenia and the problems she went through getting treatment. It shows her traveling through 17 psychiatric wards, eight apartments, three boarding houses, and countless motels.

A short discussion period will follow the film.

Mr. and Mrs. Hulisz, who both were licensed and ordained in the International Federation of Chaplains in 1999, said that most clergy, regardless of religious tradition, are not adequately trained to deal with individuals and families affected by mental illness.

I went to a Bible college. I ve got a theological Christian counseling degree. And one thing they don t touch base on is mental illness. Clergy don t know how to react to it. They just touch the surface, he said.

Mr. Hulisz has taken classes sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a group that is now offering a 12-week course at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Clyde, Ohio, for family members to learn about mental illness.

Mr. Hulisz said studies have shown it often takes 10 years before a person with mental illness is properly diagnosed and treated.

That interim time can be a time of chaos, he said. And that s the tough time when individuals need the most help.

Some ministers are quick to blame a person s mental illness on spiritual forces, particularly demons, Mr. Hulisz said.

He said that kind of response can be indicative of the clergy s lack of training and education.

As believers, we believe we are created body, mind, and spirit. There are some things that affect the body but not the spirit. The brain is an organ just like any other organ and it can and it does malfunction sometimes, he said.

Many people with mental illness can function as normal members of society when their illness is diagnosed and treated properly, he said.

Unfortunately the ones we hear about are the ones that cause trouble, Mr. Hulisz said.

He hopes that I AM HIS will provide a comfortable setting for families affected by mental illness to worship together in a church setting, and then join a time of informal fellowship afterward.

We are trying to take away the clinical setting, although there is a place for that and it obviously is effective, but we are taking a more holistic approach, Mr. Hulisz said.

That will include medication, talk therapy, peer support, fellowship, prayer, and repentance when necessary.



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