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Mental Health Conference Helps Churches and Families


A distinguished medical doctor talked openly about his suicide attempt. A loving couple jointly presented their story of a marriage and family that survived a bipolar roller-coaster ride more than four decades long. A sensitive young mother described her ongoing struggle with depression and dark moods.

Those were some of the workshops at “Spreading the Word—Making the Difference,” a November conference held in Cobourg Ontario.

More than 120 people took part in the two-day event, bringing to the discussion their own experience as mental health caregivers, patients, pastors, and family and friends of mental health patients.

Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Pare provided unusual insights, freely sharing his experience as a suicide survivor, a psychotherapist and professor, and an anti-stigma and anti-discrimination campaigner. He punctuated his presentations with humor, some of it at his own expense. Pare’s slides included paintings of his self-perception as a suicidal undergraduate student.

Faith and Hope Ministries, which sponsored the conference, is supported by Classis Quinte, a regional group of Christian Reformed churches in eastern Ontario.

The classis established its Mental Health Initiative eight years ago to help congregations support and care for those who suffer from mental illness and their families. That initiative has since grown into Faith and Hope Ministries, a ministry that helps faith communities complement medical care.

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