I was honored to have been invited this past Thursday to participate in the White House’s Mental Health Summit. I suspect the invitation resulted from our ministry’s involvement in a unique project intended to help churches and other places of worship better care for and support individuals and families impacted by mental illness.
For the past two years we’ve had the opportunity to participate (together with faith leaders and mental heath professionals from a broad array of religious traditions) in an advisory group established by the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (The Partnership Center) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This group is a small component of a much larger effort initiated by a law passed at the end of the previous administration – The 21st Century Cures Act. Through this Act (Public Law 114-255), the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) was established to make recommendations for actions that federal departments can take to better coordinate the administration of mental health services for adults with a serious mental illness or children with a serious emotional disturbance.
The leaders serving on ISMICC had come to recognize the large body of evidence supporting the idea that religious belief is associated with significantly better mental health outcomes. From a 2015 review article on the subject:
In general, studies of subjects in different settings (such as medical, psychiatric, and the general population), from different ethnic backgrounds (such as Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Native American), in different age groups (young, middle-aged, and elderly), and in different locations (such as the United States and Canada, Europe, and countries in the East) find that religious involvement is related to better coping with stress and less depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse.
The Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives established the advisory group in part to help government officials better understand the role faith-based groups and leaders assume in the continuum of care for persons struggling with, and in recovery from severe mental illness and how the faith community can play a greater role in supporting affected children, adults and their families. The group has also been charged with developing a nationwide learning community of faith-based leaders to share the work being done in mental health ministry. What I’ve found most valuable are the incredible opportunities to network with other ministry leaders (especially within the African-American community) doing great work that our team wasn’t aware of.
Our group was also set up to help churches and other places of worship access available grants and resources for mental health education and support. One focus is on helping churches and other places of worship obtain training in Mental Health First Aid and Trauma-Informed Care. The Partnership is in the process of developing a Mental Health Resource list across different denominations and faith traditions. They are also hosting monthly webinars addressing mental health in partnership with faith communities. I had the opportunity to participate in a November webinar with Jolene Philo and Katie Donahue – Navigating the Holiday Season: A Roadmap for Supporting Families Experiencing Mental Illness.
The Summit itself was a great networking opportunity. I made new friends who will help support the work of our ministry in the year ahead. I was also impressed by the number of senior government officials who took part. Two cabinet secretaries (Alex Azar and Ben Carson) took part in the meeting, along with the Counselor to the President (Kellyanne Conway). We also had an unexpected visitor. I can’t help but think their participation is an indication of the importance the U.S. government is placing on supporting individuals and families impacted by mental illness.
My biggest takeaways… regardless of your view of the President, there are a lot of very good people at all levels of government who are highly committed to supporting children and adults with mental illness and their families. I found the government’s interest in partnering with churches, other places of worship and the law enforcement and judicial systems to find solutions quite remarkable. I’m grateful to the team at the Partnership Center and the White House staff responsible for the Summit for extending me an invitation.
Key Ministry’s work is accomplished on a very modest budget. Additional funding in 2020 is necessary for our ministry staff and volunteers to travel to more ministry conferences and training events and to ensure that our educational resources to get into the hands of more pastors and church leaders and provide Biblically-based encouragement and support to more families impacted by disabilities. Your prayers and financial support are much appreciated. You can click here to provide a secure donation to our ministry or contribute surcharge-free by making a gift to Dr. Grcevich’s Facebook fundraiser on behalf of Key Ministry.
Best Wishes to all of our ministry followers for a Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Joyous New Year!