I read this column last week that was written by Rev. Matthew Ricks. He wrote about how his faith guides him through mental health concerns. This is a topic of interest to me. If you have read what I have shared previously, you know that I have struggled with such issues for much of my adult life. Ten years ago, this past February, I was delivered from such. I have not fought depression or thoughts of suicide since that time.

In November, I received training as a Mental Health First Aid instructor. I was credentialed to teach a course for adults and for first responders. As I was completing this course, along with two dozen others, a vision came to me about the applicability of the content for those that work in pastoral care.

Recently, we have advertised training in our area for people who work in fire departments and EMS agencies. Independently, a pastor who I know in Floyd, saw the course advertisement and reached out to me. He asked if a program could be provided for his church. I shared with him that it could, but that I had been given a vision of offering this training to pastors and their spouses. We are working to deliver this first training at his church in July.

I have thought a lot about the similarities between those that work in the fire and EMS community and those that lead churches. Often, these individuals are called to respond to a person in crisis – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You might even consider your pastor as your Burn Prevention Officer.

Providing Mental Health First Aid training can help in several ways. It can help the provider with training and information as to recognizing when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. The training can help the provider know the first aid to offer in such situations. It will also help those being trained with fundamentals of mental health. Through all this effort, we also are hoping to increase awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns.

Like our first responders that come to our aid on fire trucks and ambulances; like our first responders who receive our 911 calls for help; in many, many instances, pastors respond to us in our time of need. In James 5:16 (KJV), the scripture reads, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” For those of you who are on your faith walk, I encourage you to strengthen and grow in your walk in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Offer effectual fervent prayer for those that respond to the needs of others. Pray for our first responders. Pray for your pastor and pastor’s family.

Effectual is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “producing or able to produce a desired effect.” Fervent is defined as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling: zealous. Pray with purpose and passion for these people that any of us may need to call upon, in the blink of an eye. Pray for guidance and protection as they pour themselves into the lives of other people.

When you see a need in the lives of one of the people (or their families) who serve us, our church families and communities – act. The deeper you are walking in His righteousness, the more in tune you will be with the Holy Spirit. Be obedient to what He calls you to do in His Word. Your obedience will result in a blessing. That’s a promise.

I thank God for all of our first responders.

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