Beyond the physical and economic damage, the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on our country’s mental health cannot be overlooked. For many, the virus and the isolation it has prompted have caused or exacerbated feelings of fear, anxiety and depression.

It will likely touch someone you know or encounter, and knowing how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders could save a life.

And while Behavioral Health Services are out there, we know millions of Texans lack insurance or simply don’t know where to turn for help. That’s why even before the pandemic, Texas Health’s Faith and Spirituality team was working to equip faith communities with their own mental health ministries through a national program known as Mental Health First Aid.

In 2019, using a $50,000 Hesta Stuart Christian Charitable Trust grant awarded to Texas Health to help address mental health awareness, and with the help of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, 15 leaders from multiple denominations were trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid.

Workshops were then held in high-need areas to teach individuals within those faith communities how to screen for mental health risk and refer those in need to appropriate professional services.

Over 200 people were trained before COVID-19 forced a pause to in-person workshops. Working with the National Council for Behavioral Health, the initiative is now pivoting to virtual training. You can find more information about the program here. If your faith community is interested in receiving such training, please email Tracy Blair at

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