On July 15 and 16, pastors and mental health professionals will come together for Singapore's first ever Christian Mental Health Conference, in a bid to kickstart more conversations about mental health in Church and provide more resources for church leaders to care for their flock. Screenshot from CMHC website.

On July 15 and 16, pastors and mental health professionals will come together for Singapore's first-ever Christian Mental Health Conference, in a bid to kickstart more conversations about mental health in Church and share resources that will help leaders care for their flock. Screenshot from CMHC website.

How can churches be empowered to meet their members’ mental health needs?

What is it like for a pastor to live through mental health challenges?

How do we see mental wholeness through the cross of Christ?

How can churches be empowered to meet their members’ mental health needs?

On July 15 and 16, pastors and mental health professionals will come together to tackle these questions and more at a Christian Mental Health Conference, in a bid to kickstart more conversations about mental health in Church and provide more resources for church leaders to care for their flock.

Guest speakers at the conference include Bishop Emeritus Robert Solomon, who is also a medical doctor, Dr Daniel Fung, CEO of the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore (IMH), and Gasper Tan, CEO of Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).

Along with a host of other senior church leaders and mental health experts, they will explore topics ranging from addictions to empowering the Church to care for their members’ mental health in a holistic way. 

The online conference, open only to church leaders, is jointly organised by the Christian Mental Health Advocates (CMHA), the Association of Christian Counsellors (Singapore), and Promises Healthcare, a private psychiatric and psychology clinic.

Bridging a gap 

The main goal of the event is to equip church leaders to deal with the growing issue of mental health, said Chua Seng Lee, Deputy Senior Pastor of Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church, who is one of the conference’s three co-chairs.

Only 28% felt that their church has equipped them sufficiently to help a person who is facing a mental health issue.

Last year, a survey of 451 church leaders conducted by CMHA and Focus on the Family Singapore found that only 28% felt that their church has equipped them sufficiently to help a person who is facing a mental health issue.

Additionally, as much as 85% of the surveyed church leaders said that they felt their church needed to do more about mental health issues.

“This prompted us to pray about how best to fill this gap and equip leaders,” said Ps Chua, who co-founded CMHA, an informal network of Christians in the mental health sector, in 2018. “This conference is thus God-sent to help to kickstart the process for pastors and church leaders.”

Ps Chua hopes that these open conversations on mental health issues will not just help to destigmatise this topic in churches, but will also lead to a greater awareness on how to effectively help someone who is struggling.

Building bridges

Apart from sharing information on how faith and science can work hand in hand, the co-chairs hope the conference will also foster a closer partnership between church leaders and mental health professionals.

“It is important to allow a free flow of information and skills between pastoral staff and clinicians as we are all needed.”

“Some of the mental health problems faced by church members and leaders are more than what the Church is equipped to handle, especially when the issues involve medication or specialist care.

“The Church can benefit by connecting with some of these professionals for medical referrals or therapy purposes,” said Ps Chua.

Fellow co-chair Abigail Lee, the executive director of Healing Hearts Centre and president of the Association of Christian Counsellors (Singapore), added that mental health professionals can provide added perspectives as well as care and support for members and church leaders.

“I see the heart of many pastors and leaders in wanting to support and attend to their members with mental health issues, but not knowing where to refer them to for specialised care,” she said. “I hope that, through this conference, bridges and networks can be established between the mental health professionals and the pastors so that referral and equipping resources can be made known.” 

Mental wellness is especially crucial since the Covid-19 crisis has revealed the true numbers in the population who are being affected by mental health challenges, added fellow co-chair Dr Munidasa Winslow, who founded Promises Healthcare.

“It is important to allow a free flow of information and skills between pastoral staff and clinicians as we are all needed to engage those in need – in body mind and spirit,” he said.

Journey to wholeness

When asked which segment they were looking forward to the most, the co-chairs agreed that it is the personal testimonies.

For Ps Chua, he is looking forward to hearing from pastors who have gone through depression.

“Come with an open heart to listen, receive and dialogue.”

During the conference, Ps Andre Tan, Lead Pastor of The City, and Jennifer Heng, director of Safe Place (an initiative to empower women with unsupported pregnancies), will be sharing their experiences living through mental health challenges.

Rev Dr David Wong, General Secretary of the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore, will be delivering a keynote on pastoral self-care.

Dr Winslow added that he is looking forward to hearing how Christians have journeyed through to wholeness, with not just the help of talk therapies and medication, but also through faith.

Encouraging church leaders to attend, Lee added: “Come with an open heart to listen, receive and dialogue. This conference is birthed with having the pastors and leaders in mind and I pray that, as the seed is sown, participants will leave encouraged, knowing that there are resources readily available.”


To join the conference, or to find out more, visit the website here.


FOR MORE STORIES ON MENTAL HEALTH, READ:

Youth leader’s suicide led pastor to raise awareness and support for mental health in churches

Is the Church leaving our leaders and members to struggle alone?

“I just wanted it all to end”: One man’s search for God in the dark

How a woman’s struggle with schizophrenia resulted in a medical care portal for the mentally ill

About the author

Gracia Lee

Gracia is a journalism graduate who thoroughly enjoys people and words. Thankfully, she gets a satisfying dose of both as a writer at Salt&Light. When she's not working, you will probably find her admiring nature or playing Monopoly Deal with her little brother.

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