The first week of May is mental health awareness week in Canada.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, in any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness. However, Laura Howe says only 49% of pastors say they rarely (if ever) speak to their congregation about mental health.

Howe is the founder of Hope Made Strong, an organization dedicated to equipping leaders with the mental health resources needed to create resilient individuals and churches with knowledgeable and confident leadership.

"It started out as a passion project for myself," Howe explained. "I experienced compassion fatigue and burnout as a clinician in this field, and when I looked around I realized that there are so many people in ministry that do very similar things. They care for their people. they do community engagement, they do all sorts of things that are very similar, but don't have the support." 

One of the biggest things that Howe discovered while looking into burnout and mental health struggles within the church is that pastors don't like helping themselves.

"It was a surprise to me. Pastors are called to serve, and their whole focus is on the outward," said Laura. "They don't often like to look inward because it's uncomfortable. It is not authentic, or it's against the grain of what they're called to do."

Through her organization, Hope Made Strong, Howe is offering a variety of resources with the hope that it will help prevent burnout and start a discussion surrounding mental health.

"I have three resources. One is a podcast. It's called The Care Ministry Podcast. It specifically focuses on ministry caregivers. I also offer self-guided courses online, as well as consulting for churches to develop systems and processes for their care ministry," said Laura. "Supporting local church leaders to overcome and prevent burnout, create effective and sustainable care ministries and be a beacon of hope for their community is what I love to do."

When it comes to discussing mental health in the church, Laura says it's happening all around us anyway, and we need to speak up.  

"When you say something out loud. When you speak those words. It takes the power away," said Laura. "It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to be a whole sermon, but even just saying the word anxiety or the word depression, those things bring hope for people, and they decrease the stigma." 

Today on Connections, Laura shares about her organization. She'll also chat about the importance of discussing mental health, especially within the church.