Helping Pastors Help People With Mental Illness

This August, The H. E. Butt Family Foundation once again joined dozens of partners in San Antonio at Pathways to Hope, a free city-wide conference on mental health. Last year 1,400 people from 460 faith communities attended the event at the Tobin Center, connecting the city’s church leaders, civil servants, and mental health professionals.

“Deborah and David Rogers would like to see change in the way Christian communities embrace families and individuals struggling with mental illness,” said Perri Rosheger, executive director of constituent relations and member of the organizing committee of Pathways to Hope.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 53% of people struggling with mental illness—including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, impulse control, substance use, adjustment disorders, and psychotic symptoms, will reach out to a pastor for help rather than to a psychiatrist or a doctor.

“Mental health and wellness are an important focus of our work to support families and children in the Canyon and through partnerships like Pathways to Hope,” Rosheger said. “One in five people experience a diagnosable mental health condition, and the second leading cause of death for young people is suicide.”

For Doug Beach, president of the National Association for Mental Health in San Antonio, Pathways to Hope is the culmination of a long dream. When his son began struggling with mental illness, he realized how few resources there were for families facing this issue. If a family with financial means struggled to find help, what must it be like for more vulnerable families?

“In 2017 we doubled the number of workshops,” Beach said. The program continued to target clergy and lay leaders, and this year people working in the mental health field were able to receive continuing education credits at the event as well.”

Beach said Pathways to Hope is definitely a long game. “This is not a one- or two-year thing, but a multi-year effort. It takes time for people to change, for communities to change.”

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