Do you need help with your mental health?

Originally published Saturday, 29 March 2014.

Last week I attended the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church (#Hope4MH).

It was hosted by the Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, Bishop Kevin Vann of Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and Steve Pitman of NAMI-OC. You can download the conference workbook for free here.

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year -- that's one in four adults and one in ten children. People of every race, age, religion or economic status are affected.

One in four adults. I know because I am one of them. 

From the age of 10, I experienced signs of anxiety. In my 20s, I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Now in my early 30's, I am on medication (Lexapro) to help control my anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn't until July of last year that I felt comfortable enough to blog about my mental illness, anxiety diagnosis, and which medication I'm taking. I wrote about it here and here.

Maybe it's because I felt the freedom to share or maybe it's because I felt that no one else was sharing about mental illness that I finally spoke out.

When I heard about the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church I knew I had to go! I knew, however, that this conference did not come without a cost. My sympathies go out to Rick and Kay Warren in the loss of their son -- and I don't want people to miss this.

Through their pain they are helping others navigate their pain.

I. Am. Truly. Grateful.

If you struggle or suffer from mental illness or know and love someone who does, this conference is revolutionary and I hope you will feel the freedom to get the help you need!

The Conference Main Sessions included:

+ The Role of the Church in Mental Health with Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D. and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min.

+ Integrating Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Health with Aaron Kheriary, M.D., Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil., and Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D.

+ Helping the Helpers: Crisis Management for Church Staff with Tom Okamoto, M.D., Louise Dunn, D.Min., Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D., and Teresa "Tita" Smith, MSW, LCSW.

+ Resourcing the Church with Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D., Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div., Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div., Steve Pitman, and Tom Lambert.

+ Standing Together in Suffering with Kay Warren, Amy Simpson, MBA, Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D., and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min.

The Workshops included:

+ The Lay-Person's Faith-Based Response to People in Crisis by Louise Dunn, D.Min.

+ How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in Your Church by Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div.

+ Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis by Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

+ Stigma or Stigmata: Helping the Church Rethink Mental Illness by Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D.

+ Christianity and Depression by Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

+ Understanding Women's Mental Health: Is There Really a Difference? by Shari Muis, M.D.

+ Living With Bipolar Illness by Tom Okamoto, M.D. + El Papel De La Iglesia Sobre La Salud by Hermina Shea-Martinez, Ph.D.

+ The Spiritual and Emotional Roots and Treatment of Addiction by John Townsend, Ph.D.

+ Saving Lives One Community at a Time by Jessica Van Der Stad

+ The Most Important Lesson Learned from 87,000 Brain Scans by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

+ Celebrate Recovery and Dual Diagnosis by Pastor John Baker

+ Helping Helpers Manage Crisis in the Church: Building a Bridge With Professionals by Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D.

+ Understanding and Helping Loved Ones With Borderline Personality Disorder by Robin L. Kissell, M.D.

+ Welcomed and Valued: Building Faith Communities of Hope and Support by Tom Lambert

+ Abogando Por Personas Que Tienen un Diagnostico De Salud Mental Y Equipando La Iglesia, Las Families, La Comunidad Y A Los Profesionales Que Trabajan Con Ellos by Cecilia Mercado

+ Therapeutic Partnerships For Recovery by Steve pitman

+ Food and the Body: 3 Steps to Healing Eating Disorders Through Community by Constance Rhodes

+ Troubled Families: Support for Loved Ones Affected by Mental Illness by Amy Simpson, MBA

+ Re-Think Mental Illness: The Role of the Church in Recovery by Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

I took a lot of notes during the sessions and attended two of the breakout sessions listed (we were only allowed two). Here are some of the most impacting bits I wanted to pass along: "The Church is supposed to be a place of hope. I'm not okay, you're not okay, but God's okay so we're okay." - Rick Warren

"Your chemistry is not your character. Your illness is not your identity." - Rick Warren

"Our faith does not promise life without suffering, but it does offer hope. Science alone can't provide us with all the answers." - Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

"We need to make a mess. Roll up our sleeves in the lives of others. The shepherds need to smell like the sheep." - Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil

"Hope brings healing to my brokenness. If you're struggling I urge you to reach out. Revealing you're feeling is the beginning of healing." - Rick Warren

"Do your own recovery." - Tom Okamoto, M.D.

"Compassion plus resiliency = model of active listening." - Louise Dunn, D.Min

"Don't say, 'you just need to pray more to get over your mental illness' to someone because it is hurtful." - Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

"Create a culture of openness in your church. Give testimonies every week as part of your sermon." - Rick Warren

" The issue is never the issue. Start with the easiest change first. It gives you hope for the next win." - Rick Warren

"26% over 18 year olds will have a diagnosable illness this year." - Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. "I have bipolar disorder. I am not biopolar. There is a big difference." - Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

"The most courageous thing I've done in my life was continue to live when I wanted to die." Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

"You can borrow hope. The more hope you have, you can give away. If you're in hell right now, don't stop -- you're in hell. Keep going!" - Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

"You need a safety net of 'CARE.' C stands for Community (Galatians 6:2). A stands for Assistance (James 2:15, 16). R stands for recovery. E stands for Education." - Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div. "Turn your anger into advocacy." Tom Lambert

"Women are twice as likely to attempt suicide more than men, but men complete suicide more than women." - Shari Muir, M.D.

"Weight gain (besides pregnancy) is the second most likely reason women stop taking psychiatric meds against their doctors advice." - Shari Muir, M.D.

"The person with a mental illness is not the only one who needs help or needs to change." - Amy Simpson, MBA

"40% of homeless people have mental illness and 20% of homeless people have a serious mental illness." - Amy Simpson, MBA

So what's your story? There are pastors, authors, speakers, professors, and volunteers who were willing to come forward to admit things they've never said before. I appreciate their honesty and willingness to do so. Because of their bravery -- I will continue to be brave and share my story.

"My brain doesn't always work right but God always works right." - David Mandani

Resources to Get Help: + Get Help Now! - Call 2-1-1 to find a Mental Health Practitioner + Saddleback Church Support Groups -  (949) 609-8392 or + Celebrate Recovery - + New Hope Crisis Counseling - (714) NEW-HOPE or + NAMI National - (800) 950-6264 or + County Behavioral Health Information and Referral - (855) 625-4657 + 24-Hour Crisis Prevention Hotline - (877) 727-4747 + National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - (800) SUICIDE + Veterans' Crisis Line - (800) 273-8255

"The art of medicine [has been granted us] as a pattern for the healing of the soul, to guide us in the removal of excess and in the augmentation of what is deficient: it has been granted us by the God who directs our whole life." - Basil of Caesarea (ca 330-379)

Prayer in Times of Despair (St. Ignatius of Loyola) O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things 

Wherever you are on the journey to mental health, I pray that God be with you. If there's anything more I can do to help serve you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me or book me to speak at your next event. *Thanks to Saddleback Church for allowing me to be a blogger for this event. I am in their debt! *To see what others are saying about #Hope4MH go here.