Today marks the day of the nation's first religiously backed conference to address mental health issues, as expert leaders in the fields of faith, health and psychology are joining together at Saddleback Church on March 28th at The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church. This important historic event is collaboratively hosted by Saddleback Church, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County (NAMI-OC).
According to the National Institutes of Health, one in four adults - approximately 61.5 million Americans - experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17 - about 13.6 million - live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
During the opening plenary session, Pastor Rick Warren (Saddleback Church) and Bishop Kevin Vann (Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange) shared these four goals the event is aiming to accomplish:
to show why the church must lead this effort for biblical, historical, and practical reasons,
to remove the stigma and reduce the fear about mental illness,
to educate and equip church leaders about how to provide effective and compassionate care to any who face the challenges of mental illness
to raise awareness of many available resources for families and churches
Pastor Warren and Bishop Vann explained compellingly that the first place many go for help is to their faith leader because the heart of Jesus and the Church has always been for those who suffer. Jesus' ministry on earth was preaching, teaching, and healing. Historically, the church invented the hospital.
During the opening plenary, a powerful testimony was shared by a Filipino-American who struggled with schizophrenia. He described how being in a shame-based culture made it that much more difficult to get much needed professional help due to the stigma of mental illness. Through the help that came through faith in God, helpful Christians, therapy and medication, he has experienced healing and hope, and he now has a life and ministry of purpose.
"One of the things I believe is that God never wastes a hurt and that oftentimes your greatest ministry comes out of your deepest pain," Pastor Warren said. "When Kay and I began ministering to people with HIV&AIDS about a dozen years ago, I thought being HIV positive was the greatest taboo. But actually, I think mental illness is and we want to remove the stigma."
The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church is taking place March 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. PDT at the main campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Watch the free live webcast at mentalhealthandthechurch.com/webcast and follow the conversations on twitter by using the hashtag #hope4mh