Ministries Have Resources to Address Mental Health


By: Matthew Johnson, Connectional Ministries and Communications Assistant

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and churches have many caring staffers and resources available to address the needs of people in their congregations and communities who struggle with their mental health. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church calls on Methodists to be in ministry for individuals and their families challenged by mental illnesses and disorders. Mental health is often an unseen and overlooked aspect of people’s overall health. Many people visit their doctor annually to address their physical well-being, but neglect to seek treatment for mental stresses and disorders.

The Congregational Recovery Outreach Program, CROP, is a grant funded mental health awareness outreach program available to churches through Hinds Behavioral Health Services, HBHS. The program offers mental health training for church staff and access to mental healthcare and substance abuse services. The program seeks to build pathways within faith-based organizations and provide access to treatment. Director of Marketing/Coordinator of Outreach Marketing, Shona House, describes the goals of the program.

“We partner with churches to train staff to look for the signs of mental illness and also educate on disorders,” said House. “We want to make them aware of programs we have available designed to assist those who are suffering mental disorders and substance abuse issues.”

HBHS also offers a 24-hour mobile crisis team that will come where an individual is in crisis and help get them into care, and support programs for the recently incarcerated. The program is available to churches in Hinds County, but interested churches can check with their county behavioral health services for similar programs.

Amber Houston, right, shares a laugh with USM freshman Jenisha Ownens, right.
Spiritual leaders at United Methodist campus ministries also take time to address the mental well-being of the students in their care. Students face many mental stressors as their lives are in constant flux due to making the transition from children to adults and dealing with classes, professors, peers and trying to determine what direction their life should go in the future. The University of Southern Mississippi, USM, Wesley Foundation, campus minister, Amber Houston uses the counseling and psychology skills she obtained while earning her master’s degree to listen to students and address their issues in a small group and one-on-one approach.
 “I run small groups and if someone says something concerning during the session, I address it with them and help direct them to the USM Counseling Center for additional help,” said Houston. “I just want them to know there is always a community here to help them and that needing counseling doesn’t make them any less Christian.”

Isolation due to the pandemic, fluctuations in the economy and the general stresses of life make focusing on mental health a priority in for the church. Methodist can live into their social principles and take advantage of resources and training to address mental health issues in their congregations and communities head on by offering prayer and resources connecting people with counselors who can help. To learn more about the CROP program, click here. For a list of mental health resources from The United Methodist Church, click here.

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