Faith, Community and Mental Health Dallas Conference Explores Intersection of Spirituality and Mental Health
January 1, 2004
Growing recognition of the role of religious institutions as a source of solace and counseling for those experiencing a mental disorder has raised a number of issues for both the faith-based and mental health communities. In many instances, those who turn to their churches or synagogues for help for mental disorders for themselves or family members require a range of services and supports that the clergy may not have the training or resources to provide.
To address these issues, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health joined with the Mental Health Association of Greater Dallas to host a "Care for the People: Mental Health and the Faith-Based Communities" conference at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on Dec. 2.
The conference sought to build upon the work that religious institutions in Dallas County have long undertaken to care for many who do not have access to health insurance, or those unable to receive mental health services in a timely manner. The one-day conference was attended by 45 representatives of both mental health professions and religious organizations to identify and exchange information on the community resources and programs available for individuals in need of mental health services.
“There is no question that religious institutions are powerful forces for both individuals and communities," said Carolyn Young, executive associate for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. "Individuals often turn to their faith community when faced with suffering, and pastors are finding that they need to be prepared, both educationally and emotionally, to deal with a crisis when a person has a mental illness just as they would if someone is suffering from a medical or spiritual problem."
"Our hope in cosponsoring this conference is that we facilitate a stronger communicative relationship among both the mental health and pastoral communities for the benefit of those needing mental health services," Young said.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Texas state Rep. Yvonne Davis, who, along with Dr. Joel Feiner, discussed how recent legislative and system changes will impact the Dallas community and the challenges and opportunities for churches and synagogues to aid their congregations. Rev. Tony Campbell, President of the Institute for Educational Partnerships, spoke about the evidenced-based practices in assessing spiritual counseling.
In the session, "Families in Crisis: The Church Stigma of Mental Illness," Carole Harrell, Carol Kelly, Maria del Carmen Uceda and Denise Humphrey addressed the ways that families deal with loved ones who have mental illness and how the church community can help. Dallas-area psychotherapist Clare Buie Chaney, Ph.D. followed with a session entitled, "Women’s Mental Health: No Cookie Cutter Care," which discussed concerns in addressing women’s mental health needs. The wrap-up speaker for the conference was psychiatrist Paula Dobbs-Wiggins, M.D., Th.D., associate professor of pastoral care at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
The conference ended with a mini-training seminar in grant writing in which participants were provided with the basics of grant writing and the resources that may be available for establishing innovative collaborative partnerships between faith-based organizations and mental health professionals.