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Faith-based Communities Can be Pillars for Mental Health Support

Faith-based groups across the nation are reacting to acts of violence and vandalism, like the recent defacing of a synagogue and shooting in a South Carolina church by partnering with mental health organizations (“Local religious organizations recognize need for violence prevention with training,” The News & Advance, April 26, 2017).

Religious organizations are no longer seen as exempt in the face of hatred and aggression, and some organizations are taking a stand. In an effort to combat increased violence at and against religious organizations, the Virginia Fusion Center hosted a program surrounding safety techniques on May 3.

“Crime and violence in the community needs to be a discussion on multiple levels because it’s related to poverty, mental health and a variety of other issues that need to be addressed as well,” said Rabbi John Nimon, of Lynchburg’s Temple Agudath Sholom. “I think guidance from the police and more open discussion about what different communities are doing about this will be useful to address these problems and situations.”

Now more than ever, it is crucial for partnerships to be fostered between faith-based community organizations and mental health organizations. Such partnerships provide an opportunity for the mental health community to learn from spiritual leaders, to whom people often turn when facing a mental health challenge. It also provides an opportunity for the faith community to better understand what it means to live with mental health challenges and how to best treat them.

Mental Health First Aid training is a first step. Trainees learn how to identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues, and how to better respond to these indicators. Promoting awareness by educating communities and congregations about mental health can have an impact as big as saving lives.

“We all want to keep our families and communities safe, and by learning some skills when dealing with this in our houses of worship, then we can take those principles and apply them through the rest of our lives,” said Nimon.

Learn more about how faith communities can partner with Mental Health First Aid to make a difference in someone’s life. Because anyone, anywhere can be the one to make a difference.

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