Organization Brings Awareness to Churches about MentalHealth

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MCALLEN – Facilities for mental illness patients are scarce in the Rio Grande Valley. There are some people who seek out the church for help.

One priest said they also need some assistance. They want to learn more about the resources to help a person when they visit the church.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is asking all churches to get involved.

In a letter, it shows how mental illness can impact everyone. It shows resources to prevent a serious injury or even death. NAMI visited Valley churches to get that message out.

“They know all about dealing with spiritual problems. They know all about financial problems. They know about many things, but they’re not real equipped to deal with mental illness,” NAMI RGV Executive Director Stephanie Contreras said. She plans to help keep the clergy updated on resources.

“We try to go into the churches and let people know that we exist and that we’re willing to help anyway we can with persons or family members who have mental illness in their family,” she said.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS visited St. John’s Episcopal Church in McAllen with Contreras. She approached the church to present the letter. It’s a five-minute presentation to let people know about mental illness.

“The letter talks about a little bit of a personal view on what happens to a family when there’s a mental illness that occurs and then it talks about what we can do and it really stresses the point,” she said.

St. John’s Episcopal Church priest Jim Nelson started his seminary training in a federal mental health hospital in Washington D.C. He recognizes the signs and wants others too.

“Everybody, everybody deals with mental illness in some way or means. Particularly people that are in my vocation,” he explained.

Nelson believes all churches in the Valley need the information.

“This is a presentation that in some forms that should be in every congregation regardless of denomination or non-denomination. Because we all need to be reminded that one – that it’s out there and two – there are resources. Those are God-given resources,” he said.

Contreras explained one in four people in Texas will either have a mental illness or a family member will get a diagnosis.

“Suicide should not happen. It just should not happen. People do not want to die. They just want the hurting to stop. We can help the hurting to stop,” she said.

Contreras added a person with a mental illness is eight more times likely to be victim of a violent crime than the suspect.

NAMI conducts free support classes for anyone wanting to know more about coping and dealing with a mental illness. Anyone with questions about NAMI can contact Stephanie Contreras at (956) 624-4960.

For more stories and information visit Heart of the Valley: Mental Health.


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