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Fostering a Mental Health Ministry

I immediately saw the need when I heard about Mental Health First Aid from a church member. As a pastor, I encounter various individuals who are touched by mental health crises, directly or indirectly. I’ve now taken both regular first aid and Mental Health First Aid. I’ve used both, but certainly see the opportunity to use Mental Health First Aid much more frequently.

Mental Health First Aid gave me hands-on training in how to have a dialogue with somebody who might be experiencing a crisis. The ALGEE action plan is extremely useful and something I could put into effect immediately.

I can name four or five individuals in my congregation who are dealing with a mental health need. I’m currently in a counseling relationship with someone who is recovering from substance use. I’m also working with a family that has recently begin navigating the challenges of depression. Thanks to the key concepts I have learned in Mental Health First Aid, I have fortunately been able to help these individuals and families regarding what to say and what not to say during such challenges.

Earlier, I harbored stigmas about mental health, or people who were living with a mental health problem. Sometimes we believe that if a person is dealing with such a challenge, there isn’t much hope for them – that they should just manage. The training helped me understand that mental health is never a hopeless situation. Mental Health First Aid has been very effective in helping me understand those stigmas, address them, and dismiss them.

As a Christian, I want to be trained and equipped to do good. I may not be the first one as a pastor who becomes aware of a need among church members. It would be an immense help for my congregants to take the course, because they would be able to understand that if they’re struggling with a mental health challenge, they are not alone and without resources. It would help them to be more observant of the possible signs of a problem and it would help them know what they can do to help a friend in need.

Many times, we in ministry will just put our energies toward the spiritual health of our congregants. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, there’s a real focus and emphasis on treating the complete individual. Our church does have a strong health message and many lay people are involved in a health ministry of some sort. But we’ve traditionally relegated mental health to the professionals because we feel like we’re not trained and have nothing to offer.

Mental Health First Aid helps us feel like we do have something to offer. When you have the actual tools and resources for additional help at hand, it makes a world of difference. Mental Health First Aid is a very powerful tool in the hands of church members to enhance their skills and ability to offer a health ministry.

Nathan Krause is a Pastor at Olney Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland. To hear more from Pastor Krause, check out his video interview with Meeke Christian Counseling on Mental Health First Aid.