Shared Voices Offer Help and Hope

For Immediate Release

Contact: Traci Patterson, Director of Communications
tpatterson@mhahouston.org, or 713-520-3476 (direct)
www.mhahouston.org


Shared Voices Offer Help and Hope

HOUSTON, TX (October 26, 2011)—At times, we all are fragile and vulnerable, needing tenderness and understanding. Chaplains, spiritual/pastoral care counselors, and clergy are often available to people in need in communities and congregations, and in specialized settings such as hospitals, the military, counseling centers correctional, long-term care facilities and mental health systems. They offer comfort and hope to those who are hurting.

October 23–29, 2011 is Pastoral Care Week and the theme is "Voices Shared". Pastoral Care Week is an interfaith celebration that seeks to promote, honor and support the work of pastoral care ministers, institutions, chaplains and volunteers in communities throughout Houston. While Pastoral Care Week is observed during the last week of October, many faith communities also elect to recognize the work and care given by the clergy at other times during the year.

Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA) is joining this effort to recognize the significant difference being made in the physical, mental and spiritual health of all people by the clergy of all faiths. MHA has released information for clergy and faith communities that will bring greater awareness of mental health and mental illness issues and resources available in the area.

"Clergy and faith communities play an important role in helping reduce the shame associated with mental illness by arming themselves, their congregations and their communities with knowledge about mental health issues," said Betsy Schwartz, CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. "In some cases, they have also become advocates for those who need services but cannot manage to obtain services on their own."

The pews in Houston and Harris County have people living and struggling with mental health concerns—and the numbers are increasing daily. Many have mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders or bipolar disorder while others may have encountered traumas, or live with financial pressures—job loss and home foreclosure. Still others have to deal with a serious illness or the disability of a loved one.

Area statistics estimate that in Harris County, in any given year, there are approximately 86,000 children and 552,000 adults diagnosed with a mental illness. Approximately 237,000 Harris County children and adults are living with a severe mental illness. Many more remain untreated or undertreated for many reasons including stigma and access to treatment services. Some of the consequences of untreated mental health issues include poor performance in school, juvenile and criminal justice involvement, decompensation, unemployment, homelessness, and suicide.

"Because of informed and educated clergy, some people with mental illnesses and mental health concerns are getting the help they need," said Rev. Dr. Linda Christians, MHA board of directors and executive pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

Pastoral Care Week (www.pastoralcareweek.org), now in its 25th year, has grown in participation and proportion every year.  Always held the last week in October, the celebration often brings those who work in this ministry together to share stories, learn from one another and address specific pastoral care issues.  past themes have focused on diversity, methods of pastoral healing and managing peace.  End-of-life issues have also been explored and discussed in depth.  The figures in this year's logo depict the harmony and empowerment created when voices are shared.  Some arms are lifted up to share the joy, some are outstretched to embrace the pain, and some are reaching down to lift others up - or to be lifted up.

To learn more about mental health issues or for free or low cost resources for people with mental health concerns, contact Mental Health America of Greater Houston at 713-522-5161 or irspecialist@mhahouston.org or visit online at www.mhahouston.org.

###

Category: press release