The Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), through its health ministries department, hosted its first-ever Mental Health Summit, focused on empowering medical missionaries and practitioners with knowledge of mental health.
More than 400 delegates came from the three Philippine unions in the region, February 21-23, 2020, at the newly established Manila Adventist College (MAC) in Pasay City, Philippines. The summit proceeded with a vision to help delegates know more about mental health and to discover whether this area of treatment can be an avenue for bringing the Adventist health message to the world.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. More than 264 million of the world’s population are facing depression.
“The future is bright for the Adventist mental health-care system in the Philippines,” said SSD health director Lalaine Alfanoso. “This gathering of medical practitioners and Bible workers opens opportunities for integration to deliver effective ways and strategies that address numerous issues in mental health here in the Philippines.”
Organizers said they aim to establish more care groups assigned in Adventist hospitals to assist patients showing signs of mental health issues. They hope this leads to a bigger goal of having an Adventist facility dedicated to addressing anxiety disorders in the Philippines, they said.
SSD health department leaders said they have eagerly looked forward to organizing this meeting for years, given the enormous possibility of ministry that mental health care can open for the church. Statistical data show that anxiety disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression, deemed to be one of the most common anxiety disorders, may lead to suicide.
Leaders said this new information opens the church to a realization. No individual is exempt from depression, and everyone needs attention and care that will bring hope and lead to recovery.
The Mental Health Summit delved into the inseparable relationship between the mind, the body, and the spirit, with the hallmark Adventist view of education: restoring the image of God in humanity. Discussion included topics on mental health and the church’s openness toward these sensitive issues.
Peter Landless, Adventist Church health ministries director, and Torben Bergland, associate health ministries director, attended the summit.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been entrusted with a grace-filled, evidence-based, Christ-centered, biblical, spirit of prophecy-consonant message on holistic health worth living for,” Landless said.
“Our advantage is not only based on nutrition, exercise, sleep, but it is also a complete package which includes our spirituality,” Landless added.
In his message, Landless reminded participants about the hope that Jesus Christ portrayed in every circumstance. Landless encouraged every Adventist to bring hope to the hopeless.
“There are moments when we need to break our silence and be proactive in sharing the love of God to others, especially to those who are broken,” Landless emphasized.
In his lectures, Torben Bergland stressed to the participants the importance of having a holistic approach to mental health, realizing the strong connection between the body, the mind, and the spirit.
“We have hope for the future. It’s about having a relationship with Christ. It’s about having a relationship with the church and its family, where they can feel accepted and embraced as they are,” Bergland said.
“We have a responsibility as a church community to embody and mirror God’s love for people. God is infinitely compassionate. He spent His time seeking, healing, meeting people who needed help, who needed comfort. That’s where God spent most His time while here on earth,” Bergland added.
Organizers and delegates said they consider the first Mental Health Summit in the SSD a success, and they look forward to another meeting in 2021 to see how much the division has grown in this field.
“[We will also] consider improvements in [our] methods for helping people with mental health challenges,” they said.