As faith communities expand their efforts to embrace the needs of families and individuals with mental illness, lives and communities will improve. The cry for good services will grow louder. Families and individuals everywhere will feel welcome, supported and loved. They will have better access to relief in crises.
I lead the Faith-based Mental Health Initiative, an independent program, which NAMI San Antonio helped create and still supports. Since 2006, the Initiative has helped congregations start mental health ministries. We mentor faith leaders and assist them with starting ministries at their own places of worship.
From a multicultural standpoint, we have worked primarily with Hispanics and African Americans. Our efforts have engaged Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelical, Non- Denominational and Presbyterian faith communities.
Sylvia Luna, my assistant and a licensed substance abuse counselor for the homeless, plans a multi-faith conference of mostly Hispanic and African American people from small Evangelical churches. She recently trained a small group of African American pastors in Selma, Alabama on self-awareness of stigma toward those with mental illness. The pastors in turn plan to offer workshops themselves and have already done so in Selma and Montgomery.
Each ministry is "of and by the church." Infusing spirituality is up to individual ministry leaders and clergy. NAMI San Antonio provides the Pathways to Understanding manual for clergy and laity, access to NAMI classes and office resources and facilities for non-faith specific trainings.
The Initiative mentors each leader in how to: develop a ministry, facilitate a support group and help families and consumers plug into mental health treatment and community services.
For more information about the San Antonia Faith-based Mental Health Initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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