Area Faith Leaders Collaborate in Mental Health


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Image credit above: Religious leaders have formed the Kansas Missouri Mental Health Collaborative to connect congregations with the help they need. (Bill Tammeus | Flat Earth)

Reverend Carla Aday and Rabbi David Glickman have this in common: They recognize that they are not qualified to provide professional mental health counseling to members of their congregations.

Aday, pastor of Country Club Christian Church, puts it this way: “All of our clergy receive requests for personal, family and spiritual guidance, and although we are well equipped to provide education, pastoral support and spiritual vision, we are not mentally trained. health professionals. So when families or individuals request long-term care, we refer them to a mental health counselor.

And Glickman, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom, says: “I haven’t had people come to me thinking I’m a trained mental health professional. But I’ve had people come to me in distress because of their own mental illness or the mental illness of a family member. I’m quick enough to try and help them find qualified mental health care. “

Now, thanks to a new effort to make mental health care more available in Kansas City-area congregations, the people Aday and Glickman refer to counselors can find them in offices inside their homes. own places of worship.

“Since a synagogue (or a person’s church, temple, or mosque) is already a safe and familiar space for many, having advice in the building that people already know can minimize stigma and increase risk. level of care, ”Glickman notes.

The Kansas Missouri Mental Health Collaborative is about to start operations and eventually hopes to have counselors available throughout the metro area. (Executives are waiting to launch a website until the Internal Revenue Service gives final approval, expected soon, to the group’s 501-c-3 nonprofit status.)

The goal of the collaboration is to make professional counseling services more geographically accessible through shared offices with partner congregations and community organizations, as well as to make them more affordable by offering reduced counseling fees when needed.

Alice Carrott, who along with her husband, Al Eidson, worked with others to create the new collaboration, says the religious idea that people are called to love one another is the basis of what the new service plans to offer.

“When we think of families as a unit in our churches,” says Carrott, a member of Village Presbyterian Church, “if one family member has mental health issues, it affects the whole family. And if one member receives help, then everyone in the family feels helped. And churches are made of families.

Eidson adds, “I think that fits perfectly with the idea of ​​pantries. I see it as a very similar service to families who need it. It is the same expression of benevolence.

Eidson and Carrott spent much of the COVID era raising money for the collaboration, finding congregations willing to participate, locating offices and creating the job description for an executive director.

Alice Carrott and her husband, Al Eidson, are working with others to create the new Kansas Missouri Mental Health Collaborative. (Contributed)

The collaboration will be connected to a national network of interfaith counseling called the Sohliten Institute, formerly known as the Samaritan Institute.

The pandemic – coupled with such public discussions about mental health recently from leading athletes, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles – has revealed to many the reality that mental health issues are common and that people are more and more willing to ask for help without worrying about the stigma. of mental illness. As Rabbi Glickman notes, “This pandemic has created a secondary pandemic of mental health emergencies. “

One example of the growing interest in mental health for all is this recent article in The Beacon on how residents of the Black Region are finding therapists who can help them.

Earlier this year, Carrott, Eidson and others working to create the new connected partnership with Jewish Family Services (JFS) to better understand how this agency approaches mental health services. Since then, representatives of the collaboration have attended JFS monthly meetings on this topic and see great potential for networking.

“We also think it’s important to have the interfaith community woven together. It’s not just a village church project, ”notes Carrott. “Of course we want to include all religions.”

While imagining what this collaboration might look like, Eidson says, he and others visited a similar project in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There, mental health counseling and services are available in more than 50 locations. Staff counselors see patients one day a week in each of these locations, whether they are churches, schools or another community center.

“Part of the model,” he says, “is that you take all the brick and mortar costs out of it.”

Advisors will be paid from the fees charged plus what comes from fundraising. Customers would be asked to pay what they can on a sliding scale, says Eidson, but “it’s still going to be a fundraising operation. It just has to be.

Aday hopes this new collaboration will help solve the problem of people waiting too long for mental health counseling.

“Sometimes people don’t get help until there is a crisis,” Aday says. “Then they call the church because a loved one is suicidal or addicted to a substance. In these situations, we often wish we were able to help them get service before a critical point was reached. I hope this collaboration will help us encourage more people to proactively reach out for growth instead of just reactively in times of crisis.

Religion tries to guide people to a flourishing life. But that kind of generative life, says Carrott, “has to be the mind, the body, the spirit. It cannot be just the mind. And yet, if the mind is not well, so is the whole person.

Bill Tammeus, an award-winning former columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the “Faith mattersBlog for The Star’s website and columns for The Presbyterian Outlook and formerly for The National Catholic Reporter. His latest book is Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety. Email him at [email protected].

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