Throughout 2020, the North Texas Annual Conference hosted conversations with church leaders around mental health as the COVID-19 crisis grew.
Leaders described a “mental health tsunami” affecting their communities. Issues that might have been invisible to many were coming to the surface during this extended time of stress and trauma. Mental health providers confirmed that there was a growing need for churches to respond to the mental wellness demands of members and neighbors.
We gathered stakeholders from local churches, non-profits and mental health professions to plot a course of action. We wanted to avoid the trap of creating programs to fix problems without the input and buy-in from those affected. Dr. Brad Schwall, CEO of The Center for Integrative Counseling and Psychology, has been instrumental in this effort. (For more on how we got to this point, jump to "The Process" section.)
- Strengthen mental wellbeing of vulnerable communities across The North Texas Conference.
- Equip local churches and partners to respond to the mental wellness struggles of neighbors and constituents, particularly the vulnerable.
- Network local churches to collaborate and share resources around mental wellness.
- Build partnerships, media and advocacy to strengthen mental wellbeing resources in under-resourced areas.
Steps To Reach Our Goals
- Develop a cohort of local churches and partners across the urban, suburban and rural ministry settings to engage their community around mental wellbeing generate learnings from community feedback (i.e. real feedback from real people)
- Networking Congregations and Partners already engaged or concerned for mental wellbeing, to strengthen their impact through shared resources and tools through NTCUMC media
This effort targets neighbors and congregants of United Methodist churches and non-profit partners across North Texas, but with a special focus on underserved populations without access to mental wellness care and those in higher poverty communities.
We will gather feedback to begin to build out ways to respond that fit the context and expressed needs.
A large group meeting identified a key goal that would unlock the others: Open the Conversation in Local Churches to Destigmatize Mental Wellness, partly Through Communicating Resources & Media to Empower Local Churches and their neighbors.
The team developed some clarity that other challenges (below) could be addressed, but required us to open the conversation first across our Conference and Churches: Public Policy Change, Mental Health First Aid, Access to Care (Money, Provider Availability, Residential Treatment and Rural and Urban access to care), etc.
A smaller Design Team processed their own personal interviews with neighbors in their ministry settings, creating three “How Might We…” Questions:
How Might We…
- Increase awareness in churches that they have a role in Mental Health
- Reframe our conception of mental illness/health/wellness?
- Take away the money barrier completely?