Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 6-19 issue

IMG_5820For her three-hour volunteer training session, Louise Dunn does not have any props. She only turns to illustrate a concept on the white board once. And yet she has the full attention of 22 trainees for the New Hope Crisis Counseling Center, a faith-based suicide prevention hotline.

“I will tell you, the first calls you will get with New Hope, you will remember,” she says. “They’re profound.”

New Hope is more than 45 years old, but for many of the Catholics in the room, the training is their introduction to the program. A year ago, the evangelical ministry was just days away from shutting down before being saved by Catholic Charities. The survival of New Hope represents both the need and potential for a more robust faith-based response to mental health.

Saving the program

On the other side of Orange County, megachurch pastor Rick Warren has used the loss of his son, who died by suicide last year, to turn attention to mental health. His Saddleback Church partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Orange to host the largest gathering on the topic in March.

But mental health is not a new issue for churches.

New Hope started in 1968 at a young Garden Grove Community Church, one of the original megachurches. …

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