November 2, 2016 | Christiansted, St. Croix | Royston Philbert/IAD Staff
Nursing students from the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) in St. Croix partnered with two Seventh-day Adventist congregations to offer health screenings and join a health expo that featured mental health counseling and healthy lifestyle.
Teams from the Central and Hope Adventist Churches set up various stations at the Central Adventist Church’s multi-purpose center on Oct. 23, 2016, to highlight the healthy benefits in the program NEWSTART which refers to the eight natural remedies which include nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, time, air, rest, and trust in God.
The stations provided health assessments, nutritious food samples, massage treatment, stress management strategies, nutrition information for children, and mental wellness counseling which was primarily for people in the community with impaired mental health.
According to recent Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands Publication of 2015, the National Institute of Mental Illness estimates that over 18,000 people in the Virgin Islands will experience a diagnosable mental health disorder and may be at risk because of their inability to obtain specific related care, according to a CFVI publication in 2015.
“The church has a unique opportunity to offer mental well-being services and seeking to de-stigmatize mental disorders which are conscious or subconscious disbalance of the central nervous system,” said Dr. Ruth Douglass, health director of the North Caribbean Conference as she praised the community project.
Benita Randolph, one of the event organizers emphasized that the services were free and important to the community. “Health is the most important thing on people’s mind,” said Randolph. Unfortunately, mental health is a neglected area and “there are lots of people who need care.”
The health expo provided workshops and screenings, healthy cooking classes, and daily routine exercises.
This is the first time that the church highlighted mental health during a health expo, church leaders said.
“The basic function of the church is to be involved in every fact of the life of the community,” said Pastor J. Wilmoth James who ministers the two Adventist congregations organizing the event.
Being in church, singing hymns and listening to the message, it’s only art of spiritual growth, explained James. “Jesus called His people to go out and mingle with the community, to ascertain needs, meet those needs, and then ask individuals to follow Christ.”
It’s about the church living up to “its true billing in meeting the needs of the people, both the mentally afflicted and the poor should be able to receive assistance,” James said.
Both churches are planning to organize additional health expos to assist in the mental health needs of the surrounding communities.