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Megachurch raises $2M to provide counseling to those battling depression during COVID-19

mental health
[PHOTO:PIXABAY]

An Arizona megachurch has raised nearly $2 million since November to help people receive counseling services as they cope with the stresses of an election season and pandemic. 

Through the “Press On” campaign, Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) used Pushpay as the primary mechanism to raise funds to cover the cost of counseling for those struggling with mental health.

Tyler Kurbat, director of marketing and communications for the 12-campus church, said the idea for the “Press On” campaign was sparked during a sermon planning meeting at the end of 2019 to discuss an upcoming series called “Let’s Talk About It.”

The emphasis of the series was mental health during the election year. And at the time, they had no idea a pandemic was also on the horizon.

“It hit me that we had the opportunity to lean into mental health…,” Kurbat said. “If you reframe the way you look at depression, right in the middle is the rallying cry and an invitation into hope. If you deemphasize just a couple of letters, ‘press on’ pulls through”

And thus, the Press On campaign was born.

“In an average year, it’s probably one in five people (who deal with mental health)," Kurbat said. "But this year it’s one in two, which means that if it’s not you, it’s probably someone you love. We have the opportunity to lean into that and provide some support."

Scientists are tracking an increase in depression and anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic. 

In December 2020, over 42% of people reported anxiety or depression symptoms in a U.S. Census Bureau survey.  According to Nature.com, this was an increase of over 11% from the previous year. 

“Mental health [problems are] skyrocketing,” Kurbat said. “At the same time, financial uncertainty, financial stresses are also climbing. We had the opportunity as a church to jump in and fill that gap.”

The church-wide Press On effort began in November as the holiday season was beginning. 

According to CCV's Life Training Pastor Rachael Schmidt, over 4,000 people have responded through the Press On campaign and over $1.98 million has been raised. 

Schmidt, who oversees pastoral care and spearheads the project, said CCV covers 80% of the cost of 10 counseling sessions and covers half the cost of the next 10 sessions. 

Schmidt vets each of the counselors before referring an individual to ensure they align with biblical values.

People have reached out to CCV regarding Press On from across the nation and around the world. 

Many evangelistic opportunities have also resulted from the initiative and people have given their lives to Christ.

“The fruit from these stories has blown me away,” Schmidt said.

Mental health is not always a topic discussed in the church. However, CCV brought it to the forefront and has invested in helping remove barriers and streamline access to counseling.

“This conversation is just getting started,” Kurbat said. “With technology at our hands like Pushpay and with social media …, we can really begin to create some programs and experiences where these things are scalable.”

Schmidt said the church has been “openhanded with resources” and has helped other churches develop the same model in their communities.

“It was amazing how God sort of set the table for us, led our leadership to know that this is a topic that is important …,” Kurbat said. “The opportunity was to remind our congregation and also non-believers that you’re seen, you’re not alone, and that there’s help because really there’s a tremendous opportunity to destigmatize these topics and provide some actual hope.”

A study published by the Society for Human Resource Management last year found that 35% of U.S. workers battled depressive symptoms amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, few sought professional help.

A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 63% of 18 to 24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Meanwhile, 25% reported increased substance use and another 25% say they considered suicide. 

Mental Health America reports a 93% increase in people participating in anxiety screenings in 2020 compared to 2019 and a 62% increase in “depression” screenings.

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