Brad Hoefs is a pastor who started Fresh Hope for Mental Health (or “Fresh Hope”), a peer-to-peer support group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, for both individuals and the families and friends of those dealing with mental health diagnoses. Hoefs himself has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and believes the church has a long way to go to adequately minister to people in this area. He sees the issue of mental health as widespread, urgent, and a prime opportunity for ministry.
Take the issue of suicide. There are “now more suicides per year than there are [fatalities due to] car accidents,” says Hoefs. “More people are shot by their own hands than are shot by guns by other people.”
Not all mental health issues are as life-threatening as depression with the risk of suicide, but all mental illness is serious for those who experience it. Of those with a mental health issue, three out of five receive no treatment, according to Dr. Matthew Stanford, an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine and the Department of Psychology at the University of Houston.
“But the church can really play a role in that,” Stanford says.
Stanford is also the CEO of the Hope and Healing Center & Institute, a comprehensive mental health resource provider in Houston, Texas. He advocates that churches need to engage this issue effectively. It turns out churches may not have a choice when it comes to engaging the issue—only in how they do so.