In a 2020 study, an overwhelming 85 per cent of respondents felt that their church needed to do more to address mental health issues – a gap that the upcoming Christian Mental Health Conference hopes to fill.

To be held from July 15-16 on Zoom, the inaugural conference is jointly organised by the Christian Mental Health Advocates (CMHA), the Association of Christian Counsellors (Singapore) and psychiatric and psychology clinic Promises Healthcare

Open to pastors, church leaders and mental health practitioners, the conference aims to promote collaboration between the Church and Christian mental health professionals with the theme “Mind Set Free”. 

Co-organiser Reverend Chua Seng Lee shared that the conference would introduce new resources for churches seeking help and handles as well as feature honest conversations by pastors on mental health struggles.

“More importantly, we hope to connect pastors to various agencies and practitioners directly through this conference,” said Rev Chua, who also co-founded CMHA and currently serves as the Deputy Senior Pastor at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church.

In 2020, a Mental Health Survey for the Church polled 451 pastoral staff and church leaders across Singapore, around half of whom had been serving in ministry for over 10 years.

Its aim was to find out how ministers perceive mental health, how their churches and congregations responded to mental health issues, as well as to shed some light on the mental well-being of those serving in ministry.

The numbers that surfaced from the study were alarming. For instance, only 28 per cent of respondents felt that their church had sufficiently equipped them to help a person facing a mental health issue.

“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,” said Rev Chua. 

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

One can certainly expect to hear and learn from a variety of ministers and mental health practitioners at the conference.

For instance, Day 1 will be kicked off with an opening address by Emeritus Bishop Rev Dr Robert Solomon titled “A holistic approach to mental health: What is the difference between the professional approach and Christian counselling?”.

Following which, there will be a personal sharing on mental health struggles by Pastor Andre Tan (The City) and Jennifer Heng (Safe Place). 

Also of note on Day 1 is a forum where there will be presentations made by the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), PSALT Care and the Institute of Mental Health. According to Rev Chua, this segment will also feature an insightful report from SOS on their latest findings from 2020.

Rounding up Day 1 is a session on addictions and compulsions.

On Day 2, the keynote will be on pastoral self-care by Rev Dr David Wong, Advisory Pastor of Zion Bishan Bible-Presbyterian Church (who himself has been in pastoral ministry for over 40 years!).

The second forum will see presentations by Caregivers Alliance Limited, Focus on the Family Singapore and Fei Yue.

Rev Dr Keith Lai, who is the Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church and current president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, will deliver the closing plenary titled “The cross as a paradigm for mental health & wholeness”.

As with the programmes of Day 1, there will be many opportunities for participants to pose questions to the keynote speakers and panellists.

There will also be time on Day 2 for participants to split up into breakout rooms, where they will be able to engage with various hosts across a variety of topics relating to mental health. 

Finally, Rev Chua said that new initiatives in the realm of Christian health would be announced at the conference.

Without spoiling too much, he revealed that there would be a number of surprise elements in the programme to make it interesting for participants, especially at the closing segment where “special individuals” will be invited to speak.

So, if you are part of the 85 per cent who feel that the Church needs to do more to address mental health issues — consider your prayers for help answered!

Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to be equipped, edified, encouraged and exhorted to tackle the issues of mental health in the Church.

Urging all pastors, church leaders and mental health practitioners to participate in the conference, Rev Chua said: “Come and be part of this history-making conference. Come and be equipped to handle this rising trend of mental health issues.

“God will use the whole church — pastors and marketplace ministers — with the whole gospel to heal the whole world!”

To take part in the conference or find out more, click here (closing date is Saturday, July 10).