Mental Health First Aid and W.I.S.E. Conference on November 1 & 2

On behalf of the UCC Mental Health Network, I warmly invite you to attend a WISE Conference on Mental Health. Being impacted myself by mental health conditions in my own family, I know these conferences do make a difference. It reduces the stigma about mental illness and increases our understanding of mental health conditions and how our congregations can respond. You will experience personal stories; receive practical steps to engage in a mental health ministry in your congregation; and be introduced to the WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged) Covenant for congregations for mental health. Please join us.

Alan Johnson

Location: Church of the Beatitudes, Phoenix | Read the information-packed flyer for details HERE

Despite one in five people experiencing a mental illness in any one year, the stigma around mental health issues often inclines people to keep their struggles to themselves. Over half the people suffering form a mental illness never receive professional help.  But there is growing awareness of this stigma, and some faith communities are beginning to address it. 

Take the United Church of Christ's Mental Health Network, for example.  This non-profit progressive faith-based organization is dedicated to battling stigma and providing education through an online storehouse of information, including a step-by-step process for congregations who want to become “W.I.S.E.”  The acronym stands for WelcomingInclusiveSupportive and Engaged.  Most churches strive to live up to the ideal that “all are welcome.” But those who are differently abled don’t always feel welcomed, understood or even seen.   This is especially true of those with “hidden disabilities,” such as anxiety or depression.  

To break the silence around mental illness ministers and lay leaders alike have stepped forward and shared personal stories of how mental illness has impacted their families.  For example, Rev. Sarah Griffith Lund, the keynote speaker of the upcoming November event, wrote a memoir (Blessed Are The Crazy) in which she candidly describes her father’s Bipolar Disorder and a traumatized cousin later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  Those relationships resulted in her serving as the Chaplain to her cousin on death row.  

The November training features a keynoted address by Rev. Lund, followed by workshops on topics ranging from suicide prevention to being a “companion,” meaning how to be a supportive, non-judgmental presence for someone who is experiencing mental illness.  The weekend begins with an 8 hour training on “Mental Health First Aid” on Friday evening (Nov. 1st), followed by the Saturday, Nov. 2nd WISE day featuring a keynote address and workshops.

November 1: Mental Health First Aid – a training program that teaches members of the public how to help a person developing a mental health problem (including a substance use problem), experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem, or in a mental health crisis.

Session 1: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. | Lunch: 12 – 1 p.m. | Session 2: 1 – 5 p.m.

English speaking sessions: SOLD OUT!


Michael Donnelly is the Pastor of Care and Counseling at Bethany Bible Church. He is currently also a Doctorate of Education Candidate in Organizational Leadership at GCU. Michael has over 20 years of counseling experience in public behavioral health settings. Michael is a member of the Arizona ACE Consortium and is a state trainer for ACES and Trauma.

For more information contact Michael at:

Toni Donnelly is the Director of Training and Innovation for the Family Involvement Center in Phoenix Arizona. The mother of three adult sons (who have been her primary teachers about systems, services, and system change), she has been working as a parent, partnering with others to improve systems and options for families since 1999. Toni is a member of the Arizona ACE Consortium and is a state trainer for ACES and Trauma, and is also a trained Spiritual Director through Leadership Transformations SELAH program.

For more information contact Toni at:

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez, M.D. graduated in 1969 from the School of Medicine at the University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. In 1974, Dr. Valdez obtained her post-doctoral degree in Psychiatry.  Since 2005, Dr. Ortiz de Valdez is a Certified Trainer in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) & Mental Health First Aid-Youth,, MHFA (Veterans and military) MHFA for older adults and REDES (MHFA in Spanish) for adults and youth. 

Dr. Ortiz de Valdez co-founded and has been the President and  CEO of Concilio Latino de Salud, Inc., a non-profit, community-based organization, dedicated to improving the overall health of the Hispanic/Latino community in Maricopa County, Arizona through health promotion and disease prevention. She is also co-founder of Cultural Communities United in Health and Wellness (CCUHW) and a founding member of the American Union Against STDs and HIV (UNACETs) among other coalitions and organizations.

Dr. Ortiz de Valdez has served on numerous Board of Directors including: Friendly House; Planned Parenthood of Central Arizona; American Red Cross, Central Arizona Chapter; American Cancer Society; Casey Family Program; American Heart Association. Family Involvement among others.  


Learn more about Mental Health First Aid

November 2: W.I.S.E. Conference – Individuals and congregations will learn how to become WISE about mental health by hearing stories by persons affected by mental health challenges and receive practical steps in workshops and to how to engage in a mental health ministry in your congregation. Includes a keynote by Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund, workshops, basics of starting a mental health ministry, opening and closing worship, and more. This post will be updated with details soon.

  • 8:00 am Register/Continental Breakfast

  • 8:30 am Welcome and Gathering Worship

  • 8:45 am Keynote by the Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund

  • 9:40 am Becoming a WISE Congregation by Rev. Amy Petre Hill

  • 10:30 am Break

  • 11:00 am CORE Groups

  • 12:00 pm Lunch

  • 1:00 pm Workshops

  • 2:00 pm Break

  • 2:15 pm Repeat of Workshops

  • 3:30 pm The Basics: by Robin Kempster

  • 4:00 pm Church Teams: Commitments/Next Steps

  • 4:30 pm Closing and Worship

Participants are encouraged to attend both events.

Inspiration and practical Steps to implement mental health ministry in your congregation:

  • Ways congregations can address mental health concerns

  • Stories from persons affected by mental health issues

  • Practical steps to engage in a mental health ministry

  • Introduction to the WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged) Covenant

  • Network with those who are on the journey to address mental health challenges

  • On–going support

A WISE congregation has joined the mission to being Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged in the mental health of the community and the wider world.

For more information, email Alan Johnson at and visit this webpage.