top of page
  • Viewpoint

Commentary: Breaking The Silence. Church Leaders Boldly Addressing Mental Health Issues

(Rural News Today) - The pandemic revealed many things, among them health inequities, for people of color, low-income populations, and barriers to mental health and addiction-recovery services for Americans living in rural communities.

The last couple of years we have seen a major paradigm shift in how church leaders are responding to mental health issues.

The Christian Post recently wrote an article that declared in its headline that Mental Health was NOT a faith issue; as part of a Mental Health awareness series.

Senior Pastor Lee Grzywinski at Montclair Community Church in New Jersey (pictured below) told his congregation in a sermon that he struggles with what his counselor classifies as "severe anxiety," which he seeks regular therapy for. He told his church that medically diagnosed "anxiety is not sinful."

"If you are concerned about anxiety in your life, I can't stress this enough: please seek professional help. ... This is not a faith issue."

Yes, God can miraculously heal you of anything. I really believe that. But, if I break my leg, I'm going to pray and go to the hospital," Grzywinski preached in a sermon titled "The Spiritual Side of Anxiety (Mental Health from a Biblical Perspective)."

As a recovery advocate, I applaud this outpouring of transparency, compassion, and support within the faith-community, for people who have historically suffered in silence, out of shame, or fear of being ostracize; if they dared to admit they were depressed, experiencing anxiety, drinking more than they intended, or struggling to take their pain pills as prescribed by their physician.

Open communications, is one of the ways, that BELIEVERS, and non-believers alike, can help break the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders (SUD's) by openly acknowledging that they exists, and that solutions are readily available.

As a society we do not negatively judge people with heart-disease, diabetes or high-blood pressure, which are all treatable conditions, just as mental health and SUD's are.

Science, evidence based treatments, and faith need not be at odds with each other.

PneumaCare is a shining example of that. It has made cutting-edge TELEHEALTH services accessible for anyone living within, the rural agricultural community of Colusa County, which encompases an area of over 1000 square miles, and is home to a population of nearly 22,000.

PneumaCare, was birthed out of the Ministerial Association of Colusa County, and features three technologically advanced TELEHEALTH centers, strategically located in Colusa, Williams and Stonyford. These TELEHEALTH care-centers are connecting community members to primary care providers, mental health and addiction-recovery specialists, using electronic information and telecommunication technologies, that allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.

And it doesn't stop there.

The need for food assistance, clothing, and permanent housing often go hand in hand, with mental health (and substance use disorder) issues; and local churches are playing a major role, there, too.

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development "Faith-based organizations have assumed a significant role in helping promote housing and community development."

So even if you don't go to church?

There is a good chance that you and your neighbors are benefiting from what community-based churches are doing at the grass-roots level for your community's over-all health, resilience, and well-being.

If nothing else, I am pretty sure, that deserves a very loud . . . Amen.

# # #

Meet The Author:

Susan Wagenaar

Susan is the founder of Colusa County Recovery. She is active in her community, and collaborates with non-profits and faith-based organizations to raise awareness, reduce stigma and impact change. Susan lives in the City of Colusa with her cat Zipper, who walks on a leash, is a part time acrobat, and full time cuddle bug.

Research sources:

Christian Post


Montclair Community Church

Colusa County Ministerial Association

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

bottom of page