IRVINE — The “Hope for Wellness” ministry at St. John Neumann Church has been honored with Crime Survivors, Incorporated’s 2015 Above and Beyond Award for its innovative approach to the subject of mental health.
Hope for Wellness was inaugurated at the parish in January and is dedicated to raising awareness and education of mental wellness, bringing compassionate aid to those seeking help connecting with community services and removing the stigma of mental illness.
Crime Survivors, Incorporated is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to helping and healing victims of violent crimes. The group’s CEO and founder, Patricia Wenskunas, said Crime Survivors was led to recognize the Hope for Wellness program because of “the importance of mental wellness in preventing violent crimes.”
Since its inception nearly 10 months ago, Hope for Wellness “has been received very well at the parish,” said Carlos Carney, a member of the group’s advisory committee. “There’s been a good turnout at our meetings so far. People are starting to understand that this issue cuts across more areas and affects more people than they might have thought.”
The ministry, said Carney, was inspired in large part by last year’s Gathering on Mental Health and the Church at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, which was conceived by Saddleback’s Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann (this year’s sold-out gathering was held from Oct. 7-9, again at Saddleback Church).
“The gathering had a lot to do with us starting Hope for Wellness,” said Carney. “We wanted to start an outreach program where people could feel safe talking about these subjects.”
Among Hope for Wellness’ activities:
- Quarterly panel discussions presented by a wide range of mental illness and mental health professional experts;
- Programs that provide adolescents with information and advice on dealing with cyber bullying, academic anxieties, substance abuse, teen suicide prevention and other subjects;
- 12-week family-to-family classes to assist and train families to care for adult loved ones affected by mental illness;
- Programs to help military veterans returning from active deployment to acclimate back to civilian life;
- The establishment of “bridges” for teens and parents to provide group support and interaction;
- Sharing program templates with other diocese parishes to help establish programs.