Faith leaders gather for mental health conference


SAN ANTONIO — Health care professionals and clergy have joined forces to tackle mental health issues in the community.

The Health Collaborative and Bexar County is hosting the conference. Chairperson of the “Pathway to Hope” conference and the president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Antonio chapter, Doug Beach, said that 70 percent of people who are impacted by mental illness seek help from religious leaders.

“Because we find that faith is probably, if not the first, important in a person’s life, it’s the second,” Beach said.

Beach noted that the conference will help faith groups provide resources and support for people who seek their help. He said that one in five families has someone dealing with a mental illness in Bexar County.

“Many people who have a mental illness are embarrassed by it,” Beach said. “Their family members may be embarrassed about it and that’s what we have to overcome. There are a lot of good outcomes.”

The conference will include educators, social workers, criminal justice representatives and groups like the San Antonio Clubhouse. The non-profit organization helps adults with mental illnesses find jobs and housing. A member at the clubhouse, Chesse Stewart, suffered from mental illnesses since he was a child. He said that seven years ago, a doctor officially diagnosed him with paranoia schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and depression. He said that he hopes the perception of mental illness will change.

“Stop looking down on us who have mental illnesses, you know, because we are human,” Stewart said.

“The conference is very timely and very important because there’s such a stigma on mental illness. Two thirds of people don’t seek treatment,” said Mark Stoeltje, executive director of the San Antonio Clubhouse.

The Pathway to Hope conference is free and will be at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on August 26 and 27. For more information you can check out the official website: