Several of North Georgia United Methodist churches and ministries connect mental health to spiritual health and healing. Through grants, counseling groups, therapies, and so much more, they are working to provide places for fearless and open discussions on mental health and illness.
Oak Grove UMC Partners with Care and Counseling Center
When Rev. Glenn Ethridge of Oak Grove UMC in Decatur was approached by a member eight years ago who wished to start a counseling center in the church, their neighborhood Care and Counseling Center immediately came to mind.
“Our member understood the critical importance of counseling in dealing with grief and addiction,” Ethridge said. “She wanted Oak Grove to be a church where people who had spiritual counseling needs had ready access to professional help.”
This conversation helped kick-start a grant, funded by the congregation, to help members who seek counseling.
The process is extremely confidential. When a pastor is approached by a member wanting counseling, the pastor fills out a referral form, and the rest is in the hands of the counseling center, who has multiple locations across the state. Grant help is provided on a “sliding scale fee basis”. No one is ever turned away for financial reasons.
The church also uses the grant money to fund a grief support group within the church, as well as groups for adult survivors of child abuse and women going through transition.
“I think there is a higher awareness of the benefits of counseling because of the grant,” Ethridge says. “By raising awareness, we also remove some of the stigma associated with mental health issues. We acknowledge that many people need counseling. By promoting the grant in our congregation, people who might otherwise be hesitant to seek help will step forward.”
Ethridge believes churches should consider mental health as a part of spiritual health, and, as a result should feel comfortable addressing mental health issues.
Mount Pisgah Partners with NAMI
When Lynn Kinnaman first reached out to NAMI, she had no way of knowing that she would later provide support for those in her community who live with loved ones diagnosed with a mental illness.
After her son was diagnosed with a mental illness, Kinnaman received support from her Mount Pisgah UMC family, but she sought something more. She was referred to NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness, a nonprofit who offers support groups across the country to help families form connections and receive aid in coping skills.
“The person next to me is going through the same thing,” says Kinnaman as she explains the benefit of joining a support group.
After becoming very involved with the program’s events and resources, Kinnaman decided about a year ago to take their training course to become a group leader, after which she and a partner would be expected to form a NAMI support group of their own. Completing this training was important to her, because she longed to provide a class that was in her John’s Creek community.
Now, she and fellow Mount Pisgah member, Pamela Walsh, offer a 12-week Family to Family class at the church on Sundays from 2 pm-4:30 pm. After advertising at doctors’ offices and Summit Counseling Center (next door), their group filled up by November. Each class usually caters to 20-25 people.
Those who are close to friends and family with mental illness need a place to be vulnerable and share their stories, the most valuable part of a support group, Kinnaman believes. After witnessing the local popularity and need for this kind of resource, Kinnaman and Walsh hope to offer two classes a year at Mount Pisgah UMC.
“These people are all at different stages,” Kinnaman explains. “It gives people hope to see that they’ve made it through.”
Though it is not a faith-based organization, a prayer time is offered at the end of each meeting, where anyone is welcome to participate.
In the future, Kinnaman hopes to train her own volunteers to lead support groups and continue spreading awareness on mental health. She finds that mental illness is a taboo subject, and that people are often afraid to talk about it. She hopes that by increasing resources and information on mental illness, a greater support system can be formed across families and communities.
Learn more about Mount Pisgah UMC’s efforts to support mental health at www.mountpisgah.org/care
Emory Spiritual Health
Emory Spiritual Health is made up of a committed group of certified health care chaplains whose main goals are to engage in patients’ spiritual wholeness in order to improve physical and mental health at Emory University Hospitals.
Their motto: We are here to respond. Lean on us.
“When you are admitted to an Emory hospital our staff clinicians and chaplains are there to respond to your religious, spiritual and emotional needs,” says Executive Director, George Grant. “We listen compassionately to where you are--not pressing for where we think you should be.”
Spiritual health interventions focus on mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation response achieved through various methods, such as chronic illness group work, and music and art therapies.
“Whether your suffering is physical or mental,” Grant explains, “our Spiritual Health staff will work alongside you and the other members of the healthcare team to ensure that you are treated with respect while undergoing the best treatment available.”
The Spiritual Health team is made up of 46 full time staff members, as well as 52 part time employees.
Learn more at emoryhealthcare.org