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Getting through ‘rough, anxious times’

Presbyterian Mental Health Network to host panel discussion Wednesday

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Emma Simpson on Unsplash

LOUISVLLE — The global pandemic’s impact on mental and sempiritual health will be the focus of a panel discussion by the Presbyterian Mental Health Network on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

The online discussion, which starts at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, will be the first major event for the network, which is striving to become an information hub for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastors and members looking for ways to better serve the mental health needs of their congregations.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, has brought with it a myriad of mental health challenges.

“During the pandemic, and everything else that’s going on right now, I don’t think you will find a human being that is not struggling with their mental health,” said Tara Rolstad, a network member and professional speaker. “These are just rough, anxious times.”

Sharing their expertise at the event will be the Rev. Dr. Bridget Piggue, director of spiritual health at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta; the Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon, head of staff at C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Dr. Valerie Lipscomb, ruling elder/clerk of session at Kirkwood Church in Bradenton, Florida.

The panel discussion will focus on “the specific issues that the pandemic has raised for our faith community,” Rolstad said. “So whether that’s pastors, church leaders, congregants and even families in the communities that we serve, how has the pandemic specifically affected our mental health and what are some of the issues that folks are already struggling with?”

The event, which is free and open to the public, also is likely to touch on “solutions and some of the ways we can help each other,” she said.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll conducted in mid-July, 53% of U.S. adults reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted by worry and stress over the coronavirus. That was up from 32% in March, the first time the question had been included, according to KFF.

Many adults also reported specific troubles, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increased alcohol consumption or substance use (12%) and the worsening of chronic conditions (12%) due to worry and stress over the coronavirus, KFF noted.

By holding a panel discussion for those who are affected or have an interest in mental health, “we definitely are hoping that they will be encouraged that there’s an organization dedicated to this issue now and that they’ll show up to be a part of this conversation,” Rolstad said.

The network also hopes to attract people who might be interested in becoming more involved with the network, which was called for as part of a Presbyterian mental health initiative adopted by the 223rd General Assembly in 2018.

The network is intended “to provide a point of connection and support for people who want to work on mental health ministry where they are,” said Donna Miller, Associate for Mental Health Ministry for PC(USA).

To register for the panel discussion, go to

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