It’s May, and among other things, that means Mental Health Month is underway. This year, to mark the importance of mental health awareness and conversation, my blog will be devoted to the subject for this entire month.
I want to start by telling you about a ministry that’s doing great work among people touched by mental health problems: Hope and Healing Center & Institute in Houston, Texas. Last week I traveled to Houston to accept an award from this organization, at their 5th annual Chrysalis Award luncheon. They recognized my work in bringing hope to people living with mental illness. And they built my own sense of hope as I got to learn more about their work. I thought you might find it encouraging and inspiring too.
Years ago, leaders at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church conducted a congregational survey and found that the number-one thing congregants wanted the church to offer was ministry to support those who were suffering in the face of life’s challenges. Out of that feedback was born a vision, and from that vision came the Hope and Healing Center. While it now functions independently as a nonprofit organization, like so many other compassionate and hopeful responses to mental health problems, it came out of the church.
Hope and Healing Center is a comprehensive mental health resource, offering care for the physical, spiritual, mental, and relational well-being of people. The center offers support groups for both individuals and families, educational seminars, mental health coaching, healing prayer, continuing education training for professionals, and a lovely serene garden space for peaceful reflection. Services at the center are offered for free or minimal cost, and they are available to everyone.
The Hope and Healing Institute is a research-focused arm of this organization, partnering with the Hope and Healing Center. The Institute explores and creates new programs and resources, especially around the relationship between faith and mental health. What a great partnership! And who else is going to do it, if it is not an initiative of people in the church? We are people of hope. How beautiful when we offer that hope to the world around us, as this organization does.
Dr. Matthew Stanford serves as chief executive officer of this innovative organization, and he’s well qualified to do so. A neuroscientist and experienced educator, he’s also an author and a frequent speaker on the obligations of people of faith to do good ministry among people troubled by mental health challenges. In fact, I’ve shared the stage with him on several occasions and of course I think he’s brilliant because he tends to agree with me.
At the Chrysalis Award luncheon last week, roughly 450 people came together to offer solidarity and financial support to this great organization. After talking with a few of them, I know that many of these folks have been touched by mental health crisis in their own families, and they passionately want to offer hope to others who are walking through similar hardship. I’m sure others simply are motivated by compassion for those who need help and understanding of the limitations in our mental health care system.
I tell you about this organization for a few reasons: I want to recognize and appreciate the good work they’re doing. I also want to encourage you–I hope you find it uplifting, as I do, to know this kind of good work is happening. And I would love to see this story inspire others create similar organizations in their own communities.
Is there any reason a ministry like this can’t exist in every major city in the United States? in other nations? To those of you with entrepreneurial spirits, networking chops, or access to deep pockets of resources: Please consider what is possible if you engage yourself in a pursuit like this. Perhaps God is calling you to do just that.