Mental Health Summit

October 17, 2016 (Jackson, Miss.) - Belhaven University is mobilizing a collaborative effort among churches to address the issue of mental health in Mississippi. Virtually all of the challenges facing the state have a mental health component, and the church is the first place people turn to for help.

Bridging the gap between church, mental health and health leaders, Belhaven's Institute for International Care and Counsel will host 150 pastors, mental health workers, social workers, nurses and community leaders on October 21-22. They will explore ways to work together in advocacy, prevention, support and training

Mind, Body, Spirit: Connecting Faith and Wellness: A Summit on the Church, Health & Mental Health will include keynote speakers, workshops, discussions and several short, powerful talks related to health and mental health. The event will specifically focus on raising awareness, reducing stigma, creating stronger relationships and building a sustainable plan for the future of mental health in Mississippi.

"The outcome of this event is not a stand alone Belhaven University program,” states Dr. Bradford Smith, director of Belhaven's Institute for International Care and Counsel. “It will be a collaborative effort and we are humbled to act as a catalyst in initiating it and helping it move forward.”

Two special guest speakers, one a psychiatrist and the other a pastor, will be headlining the Summit. Dr. Sidney Hankerson, assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Surgeons and Physicians and a nationally known researcher on churches and mental health. Bishop Ronnie Crudup, administrative bishop for Fellowship of International Churches and senior pastor of New Horizon Church International.

In recognizing the strategic role of churches in promoting mental health, Belhaven University President Roger Parrott noted, “Our hope is that this Summit will not just be an event, but that it will be a launching pad, igniting a movement to challenge churches in Mississippi to embrace mental health and wellness ministry and be equipped to do so.”

Over the past six months, a Belhaven research team conducted focus groups with local churches to evaluate their strengths and challenges in responding to people with mental conditions. “One of the key findings is that pastors feel ill-equipped to preach and teach on mental health,” revealed Dr. Smith. “In addition, they often simply don't know how to respond to the complex mental health needs of their people. There was a clear call from pastors and other church leaders for more training."

The organizers recognized that mental and physical health have a great impact on each other and decided to include physicians and nurses in the dialogue. According to Belhaven's Dean of the School of Nursing and Summit Co-Director Dr. Barbara Johnson, “It's been proven that people with mental illness often have physical health problems and are less likely to seek medical attention.”

Belhaven also invited key public figures for a pre-Summit leadership luncheon to inform community leaders, including senior pastors, government officials and health administrators on the long-term vision and plan of action.

Mind, Body, Spirit: Connecting Faith and Wellness is laying the groundwork for future training, conferences and projects. Dr. Parrott adds, “We're looking forward to ways in which we can work together going forward to address this critical need all across the state of Mississippi.”

For more information visit or email or call 601-968-8916.