Renew your mind: Finding hope and healing in faith-based mental health

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Dr. Monty Burks

By Rev. Neelley Hicks

JA Guest Writer

As first published by Mississippi Today 

Partner Stories.

Where do people go when they cannot access or afford professional mental healthcare?

For many, the options are few. Mental healthcare’s high cost and inaccessibility make it too difficult for many in need.

According to a 2023 report, Mississippi has the fewest mental health providers per capita and is in the top five worst states for mental health treatment costs.

Given the rise of crises people face, there may be no place to turn other than faith communities for guidance through troubled times.

This is why Mississippi Public Health Institute’s Congregational Recovery Outreach Program (CROP) leads an innovative initiative in collaboration with local congregations and mental health services. In partnership with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, this endeavor seeks to nurture inclusive faith-based communities, particularly in areas where empathy and care are in high demand.

CROP acknowledges that faith-based communities are pivotal in lessening social inequities and offering vital support for mental health challenges.

To advance this mission, CROP  is delighted to announce its inaugural Mississippi Mental Health Faith-Based Summit, which will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2024, at the Jackson Convention Center from 8 am to 3 pm. Admission is free and open to the public. To attend this free summit, register by going to or by calling 601-398-4406.

“Community-level partnerships are essential for effective public health work. Strong partnerships with churches and faith-based organizations as trusted community partners facilitate improved outcomes and sustainability,” said Roy Hart, CEO, Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI).

According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, we are a nation suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, which is an urgent public health issue. Mental health affects all aspects of our lives, including physical health. Public health interventions are needed to help prevent mental health crises, and community involvement is key.

“These organizations serve as pillars of strength, offering compassionate care, understanding, and a sense of community to those in need,” said Wendy Bailey, Executive Director of DMH. “Their commitment to addressing mental health issues aligns seamlessly with our mission at the Mississippi Department of Mental Health to provide accessible and comprehensive mental health services to all Mississippians.”

The event features panel discussions that address stigma and myths surrounding mental health and address the current realities in Mississippi. Participants can visit booths to find vital resources of local services and training to provide trauma-informed support groups in their communities.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Monty Burks, Deputy Director of the (Tennessee) Governor’s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said, “We know that when a person leaves treatment, leaves recovery support, leaves incarceration, they go back to their community. Having those communities working together intersected to serve that person makes it easier for a person to attach to a community and continue in their recovery walk. There is no one pathway to recovery. People are gonna find their own walk no matter how they find it so the more resources they can find the better for them in the community.”

Through strategic alliances with the Jackson Revival Center, Pearl Street AME Church, and New Horizon Church International and a partnership with Hinds Behavioral Health Services, CROP is dedicated to addressing racialized disparities in behavioral health. These alliances are built upon a shared commitment to health equity and a resolve to serve marginalized communities.

“CROP and the Faith-Based Summit are important to the church and community to remind community members that the church is a vital part of the community and committed to addressing spiritual and mental health challenges that impact church and community members,” said Stan Johnson, Assistant Pastor, New Horizon Church International.

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Renew your mind: Finding hope and healing in faith-based mental health

By Jackson Advocate News Service
April 29, 2024