by ANN

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America joined dozens of other organizations in the United States last week in pledging support for President Barack Obama’s initiative to promote mental health. Katia Reinert, health ministries director for the denomination's North American Division, represented the church at the National Conference on Mental Health in the East Room of the White House as President Obama applauded public commitments made by faith communities and other groups leading efforts to raise mental health awareness.
 
“The Adventist Church has historically looked at people as wholistic, with mental health and physical health both linked to spiritual health,” Reinert said. "Being able to bring this perspective from the faith community and let them know that Adventists care about mental health and have active recovery and support ministries was significant." The meeting was an opportunity to build partnerships with likeminded groups and benefit from an arsenal of mental health resources, as well as share the church’s unique approach toward health.
 
In February this year, church health professionals launched Adventist Recovery Ministries, a pathway toward healing for those battling addiction and compulsive behavior. The 12-step program is one of the focuses of next year’s National Health Summit. The weeklong event will also offer training in mental health first aid, depression recovery and optimizing brain potential, Reinert said.
 
The church’s additional plans in its public commitment presented to the White House include (1) designating February 2014 for a special emphasis on mental health; (2) devoting the February 2014 issue of Vibrant Life, the health promotion journal published by the Church, entirely to mental health; (3) asking all local churches to focus on mental health awareness on Sabbath, February 15, 2014, and promote awareness in their communities; (4) plan a National Mental Health Conference with Adventist HealthCare in 2015; and (5) publish a youth devotional book focusing on mental and emotional health in 2015.
 
A task force organized by the church’s Health Ministries department in North America is overseeing the efforts. Members were selected from Adventist hospital systems, mental health facilities, education and research institutions, supporting ministries and publishing houses.
 
The church’s efforts are part of what President Obama is calling a national conversation about mental health. Ongoing dialogue will help lift the stigma associated with mental illness and improve health care for those struggling with such issues, particularly veterans and students, stated a press release from the White House Office of Communications.
 
Reinert said she hopes the conversation inspires Adventists to offer support and friendship to church and community members struggling with mental illness. She also wants Adventist churches to serve as centers of hope and healing in the community. “Many of our members are afraid to come out of our churches and mingle, but we end up making valuable partnerships and benefiting from other perspectives and resources, as well as sharing what we know and impacting our communities,” she said. “This is a great opportunity moving forward.”
 
This story was supplied by the Adventist News Network (ANN), the official news service of the denomination, with reporting by Elizabeth Lechleitner.