When a person is experiencing an emotionally difficult period, often the first stop in seeking help is with a pastor or another trusted spiritual adviser.
That's why churches and faith groups across denominations are increasingly focusing on the mental well-being of their congregation members, says Patricia Turner, outreach director for Center for Hope International Ministries, an independent, non-denominational Christian church in Bloomington.
"I'm glad that this is one of the stops people can make," Turner said on GLT's Sound Ideas.
"I like to emphasize that our name is Center for Hope. So many times if you are facing issues of mental health, behavioral health or addiction , it's easy to get to a place where you lose hope ... We like to let people know there is help, there is hope. We're not the only stop, but we are one of the pieces of the puzzle."
Turner said clergy members may not be trained to deal with the complex mental or emotional problems of their congregation members, but they can serve as a resource to refer their members to mental health professionals.
Many congregations can draw from a list of mental health providers both within and outside of their congregation, Turner said.
It is important to recognize that mental and emotional problems do not reflect a moral failing or lack of faith, she added.
Center for Hope tries to address "the whole person," Turner said. That is why the church built a gymnasium next to its sanctuary where people can exercise, relax and work off stress.
The gym is open to the public at large. "Those are some of the ways we interact community-wide. The more we do this across the spectrum, the more progress we will see," Turner said.
There is an increasing interfaith effort to deal with mental health issues as well. A clergy association connected with Bro-Menn Hospital includes about 100 different groups from various faith traditions, Turner said.
Turner was part of an interfaith panel on faith-based efforts to address mental health issues at Thursday's Behavioral Health Forum at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
The faith-based panel also includes Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe of Moses Montefiore Temple, Sheik Khalid Herrington of the Islamic Center of McLean County, Carrie Bussman of Truth In Love Counseling, and Scott Kemp of Celebrate Recovery.
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