WASHINGTON — The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Health and Human Services Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiativesrecently hosted an event titled “The Role of the Faith-Based Community as Bridge Builders to the Treatment Community for People with SMI (Serious Mental Illness)” featuring credentialed experts from across the medical, mental health and faith spectrum. Participants included, among others, Altha J. Stewart, M.D., president of the American Psychiatric Association, Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church, David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School and Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center and Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).
Dr. Clinton commented the church has “come a long way” when it comes to how it serves those with mental illness, but noted that there’s still room for improvement. “We’re not naive enough to think we can throw out some cliche words or simple exercises and see a tide change,” but remarked that substantive improvement would require “collaborative work” between the faith and treatment communities.
His words underscored the very goal of the event, which was convened to identify methods of better educating and engaging faith leaders in the care of people with mental illness, to identify challenges to building bridges between the faith and mental health communities and to develop a list of resources to assist faith leaders in their response to and referrals of mental health emergencies.
Dr. Clinton reflected on the need for the broader mental health community to acknowledge the reality of a spiritual component in therapy, what he called the “God factor,” pointing to the fact that many people “turn first to a priest, pastor or rabbi.” They seek a therapeutic environment “where their faith is affirmed.”
Because “the silence, the stigma, the shame, the lack of support, the isolation” experienced by those facing mental illness can be “overwhelming,” Dr. Clinton exhorted the faith community to embrace its responsibility to love and serve the hurting. He echoed the need for the church to have a ministry to the broken.
To put Dr. Clinton’s words into action, the AACC has invited mental health leaders, pastors, coaches, lay helpers, concerned family members and community leaders to attend a free specialized training in opioid crisis response Wednesday, September 26 in Dallas, Texas, as part of its 2018 Mega National Christian Counseling Conference.
The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is the world’s largest and most diverse association of Christian counseling professionals. The AACC’s mission is to equip the entire community of care, including licensed professionals, pastors and lay caregivers, with biblical truth and psychosocial insights so they can minister to hurting persons and help them move to personal wholeness, interpersonal competence and mental stability. The AACC accomplishes this mission through its widely attended events, its educational programs and materials available via Light University and its other publications.
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