A new mental health resource for churches from an unlikely place

For the last 2 ½  years, Catherine and I have had the privilege of being part of a most unlikely and extraordinary group of religious leaders and Federal government officials looking at how congregations from America’s diverse faith traditions might better care for and support individuals and families affected by mental illness, organized by the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This past week, HHS released a resource developed by the group that we highly recommend to churches of all Christian traditions.

Compassion in Action: A Guide for Faith Communities Serving People Experiencing Mental Illness  is available as a free download through the HHS website.  The guide is organized around seven key principles applicable in all faith traditions that offer a way for spiritual leaders to address mental illness in the communities they serve. The guide also identifies concrete houses of worship might take to “put their compassion into action.”

Each of the seven principles is accompanied by a set of action steps informed by the wisdom of the 75 faith leaders, academics, caregivers, and mental health professionals experienced in addressing mental illness in their own communities, accompanied by a compilation of resources applicable within and across faith traditions. 

The guide is an excellent resource to share with pastors, elders and ministry leaders as an educational tool on mental illness and a spark to discussions on ways churches might better care for and support affected families. Consider it background reading for leaders prior to implementation of a mental health strategy based upon the model presented in Mental Health and the Church.

The HHS Partnership Center has a webinar –  The Seven Principles for Faith Communities Addressing People Experiencing Mental Illness and Their Caregivers offering an overview of the principles in the Guide scheduled for Tuesday, June 23rd at 12:00 PM. Free registration is available here This is the first segment in a webinar series intended to encourage more faith communities to walk with and provide community for a lifetime to persons impacted with mental illness.  

I’d shared previously that the HHS initiatives represent 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 recommend 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. Leaders serving on ISMICC came to recognize the large body of evidence that religious belief is associated with significantly better mental health outcomes.

Much of the credit for this amazing work rests with Shannon Royce. Shannon serves as Director of the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives at HHS and has a long history of mental health advocacy. We became familiar with her work while she led Chosen Families, a non-profit organization that championed the needs of families impacted by “hidden disabilities.” She is a longtime advocate for mental health ministry within the Southern Baptist Convention, her home denomination.

Through our participation in these initiatives I was encouraged to encounter very good people in the government highly committed to supporting children and adults with mental illness and their families. All of this work was done by an incredibly diverse group of leaders, many of whom come from religious traditions both within and outside of Christianity very different from our own. This interfaith effort stands out as a beacon of hope at a time when the divisiveness in our country around the function and role of government is overwhelming. 
Our team at Key Ministry has assembled a COVID-19 resource center for churches and families. Find trainings and resources created by our team, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Faith-Based Partnership Center, the Centers for Disease Control, Saddleback Church and others. Check it out today.


About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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