RICHMOND, Va. -- Realizing you need help is the first step in taking care of your mental health. But answering the questions like, ' 'where do I go?' and 'who should I talk to?’ can be tough to explore on your own.
Matt Fisher is the care pastor at Hill City Church in Richmond.
“For people who've never been to therapy, I always say it's kind of like dating,” Fisher said. “You can meet a therapist that's perfectly good at their job, and perfectly nice and great. But if you don't click, sometimes that doesn't work. You have to find the right match.”
Fisher used to serve as the church’s Creative Director before he stepped into his most recent role less than a year ago.
“That was almost how I got into this position, was just being honest about my mental health struggles and what helped me,” he said.
‘Care Pastors’ can be found at all kinds of churches, according to Fisher. They usually focus on helping those in need when it comes to things like food insecurity, homelessness, or even hospital visits.
All of which he called worthy causes, but added sometimes mental health can get left out of the equation.
Care pastor doesn’t necessarily equal licensed therapist – as is the case for Fisher.
But he still plays a vital role in helping community members define their needs and figure out where to go next.
It's a path he recognizes many people have been walking during the past year.
“I think, especially during COVID, everybody needs someone to talk to, and everybody needs community and needs friends," Fisher said. "So what we want to make sure when they're engaging the care ministry is, do they need a little more than that? Like, are they feeling stuck somewhere in a relationship, in their own mental health, in their own growth?”
But initial conversations like these are often coupled with hesitation for those who consider themselves followers of the faith.
“A lot of people are coming to me having heard things like pray harder, or read your Bible more, and those things are all good things," Fisher said. "But when you're struggling with a legit mental health challenge, sometimes that stuff doesn't work unless it's partnered also with therapy or counseling or some more professional help.”
And as far as who can reach out to Hill City’s care ministry, Fisher said anyone is welcome, no strings attached.
“There have been quite a few times where folks have reached out to us and are sometimes going to another church or maybe not going to church at all, but are just looking for, you know, those resources," Fisher said.
So far, Hill City's Care Ministry has helped about two dozen people. Matt Fisher leads that one-person operation. He believes it's the first of its kind in Richmond but hopes other local churches will join in and put an emphasis on mental health.
The segment is sponsored by WHOA Behavioral Health.