Supporting People With Mental Illness

Mission | March 19, 2015


Marla Brundies first became interested in helping those who struggle with mental health, addictions, and intellectual disabilities as a teenager, when she babysat a child with a disability.

Marla, 60, spent the first part of her adult life working for MidAmerican Energy, raising her kids, and going to school. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1998 and a master’s degree in social work in 2001.

Marla is now leading the Mental Health Awareness Team at St. Paul. Their next meeting is tonight, Thursday, Marcy 19, at 6 p.m. in the Church House Dining Room.

Tell us a little bit about your professional life:

I am an Iowa Licensed Independent Social Worker and have worked for the Department of Veteran Affairs for 14 years. I also have certification as a social worker in healthcare, in anger resolution, addictions, and as an alcohol and drug counselor.

I have worked throughout the country for Veterans Affairs, including serving veterans who are homeless, incarcerated, and re-entering society. I’ve worked in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. area, and West Palm Beach.

I came back to the Quad Cities in July 2013, returning home to be near my mom, who celebrated her 90th birthday that year. I work at the Veterans Affairs office in Rock Island as the homeless outreach center’s social worker. One of my responsibilities is for all of the calls and referrals from the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans in the region.

What do you and the mental health committee members hope for as you look towards the future?

The St. Paul Mental Health Awareness Team has four goals:

1. Mental health education, through events that offer an awareness and understanding of mental health issues

2. Mental health peer group support, for those with a mental illness and/or for families and loved ones

3. Hospitality and companionship, by reaching out to those dealing with issues that can make it difficult to attend services

4. Mental health community resources and/or referrals, so that area services are known to those who wish to use them.

The MHAT is just one part of St. Paul’s mental health ministry. The St. Paul congregation provides the Vera French Housing at 2025 Main Street, supports Vera French school-based services, participated in the 2011-2014 National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Walk and attended MHAT events, such as evening panels that span the spectrum of mental illness and health, and by watching and discussing movies about a variety of mental health issues. MHAT events are also well attended by others from the community.

Why is it important for faith communities to be involved in mental health information and advocacy?

MHAT goals of service, support, education and empowerment for St. Paul church members and the community fulfills Christ’s teaching.

“Heeding Galatians 6:2, ELCA social teaching advocates that Christians bear the burdens of one another..” our denomination commits as a church to “accompanying people in their valley of the shadow, to advocating for their just and dignified treatment, and to praying for their healing and restoration.”

The entire document can be found here.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time I love reading, theater, music, movies, camping, and other outdoor activities such as swimming and boating. I also love learning, so in 2014 I completed the Genesis Medical Center’s Parish Nursing/Health Ministry education and the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Mental Health First Aid training.

I was blessed in November 2014 with my first grandchild, and enjoy spending time with him, my son Aaron, who is a physical therapy assistant for Genesis, and his wife Lindsay, who works as a sterile processing technician at the Spring Park Surgery Center. I also spend time with the rest of my family in the Quad Cities as much as possible, and enjoy visiting my daughter Naomi and her husband, Dave, who run Outdoor Cinema Network in Denver, Colorado.

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