Obama’s mental health initiative receives faith, community support
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America joined dozens of private sector organizations this week in pledging support for U.S. President Barack Obama’s initiative to increase understanding of mental health nationwide.
At a conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Monday, President Obama applauded public commitments made by faith communities and other groups leading efforts to raise mental health awareness.
Katia Reinert, who represented the church at the National Conference on Mental Health, said it was an opportunity to build partnerships with likeminded groups and benefit from an arsenal of mental health resources, as well as share the church’s unique approach toward health.
“The Adventist Church has historically looked at people as holistic, with mental health and physical health both linked to spiritual health,” she said.
“Being able to bring this perspective from a faith community and letting others in the public sector know that Adventists care deeply about mental health and have active recovery and support ministries was significant,” said Reinert, who directs Health Ministries for the church’s North American Division.
In February, church health professionals launched Adventist Recovery Ministries, a pathway toward healing for those battling addiction and compulsive behavior. The 12-step program is one of the focuses of next year’s National Health Summit. The weeklong event will also offer training in mental health first aid, depression recovery and optimizing brain potential, Reinert said.
The church’s additional plans in the public commitment presented to the White House include:
- Designate February 2014 for special emphasis on mental health
- Devote February 2014 issue of “Vibrant Life” entirely to mental health
- Devote Health Sabbath, February 15, 2014 to mental health awareness and encourage the division’s 5,400 Adventist churches to promote awareness in their congregations and communities
- Plan a National Mental Health Conference with Adventist HealthCare in 2015
- Publish a youth devotional focusing on mental and emotional health in 2015
A task force organized by the church’s Health Ministries department in North America is overseeing the efforts. Members were culled from Adventist hospital systems, mental health facilities, education and research institutions, supporting ministries and publishing houses.
The church’s efforts are part of what the Obama administration is calling a national conversation about mental health. Ongoing dialogue will help lift the stigma associated with mental illness and improve healthcare for those struggling with such issues, particularly veterans and students, a press release from the White House Office of Communications stated.
Reinert said she hopes the conversation inspires Adventists to offer help, support and friendship to church and community members struggling with mental illness. She also wants Adventist churches to serve as centers of hope and healing in the community.
“Many of our members are not comfortable to come out of our churches and mingle with members of the community, as Christ did, but when we do that we build relationships and partnerships that enable us to share perspectives and make a positive impact for Christ,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity as we move forward in accomplishing our mission.”