Pro Bono Counseling Project (PBCP) Executive Director Amy Greensfelder was recently invited to speak at NAMI Metro Baltimore‘s annual symposium for faith leaders. NAMI and PBCP both recognize that faith communities are at the frontlines of noticing the signs of mental health concerns, and that faith leaders play an important role destigmatizing mental health and connecting people to appropriate resources. Members of faith communities share with each other when they are worried about problems and if they are struggling to find support for a family member. When responding to a loss or life disruption people often turn to faith communities for support.

Amy’s talk focused on addressing the stigma associated with mental health, how to have a conversation with someone when you’re concerned about their mental health, and how to connect congregants to mental health resources. After the talk she had the opportunity to speak with religious leaders from a variety of faith backgrounds. She spoke with a Jewish cantor about how to be supportive of congregants, a Muslim youth group leader about helping support immigrant teenagers who are straddling cultures, and Christian leaders about reckoning with historic views of mental illness.

A Lutheran pastor who attended the event reflected that she had recently had a conversation with another faith leader, “that just a couple decades ago we didn’t acknowledge mental illness, and hid those realities, even sometimes whole people, to not have to deal with it.”  After the event she observed, “I am grateful that we are moving, hopefully, beyond that. Today is one step for me and others toward a more whole accompaniment with people struggling with their mental health.”

The symposium also included a panel that addressed crisis services. The panelists included a speaker from NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” who shared his experience of living with severe depression, staff from Baltimore City and Baltimore County crisis programs, and a law enforcement instructor who trains fellow police officers in responding appropriately to mental health crises.

PBCP staff are available to talk with community groups about a variety of topics related to mental health and counseling. Contact our office at 410.825.1001 to learn more.