Doug Reed didn’t set out to work in mental health ministries. In fact, Reed worked in the finance and corporate sector his whole life. However, when several members of his church, including himself, were faced with loss of a loved one due to suicide and the pandemic hit, Reed knew something needed to be done.
Reed is a member of St. Andrew Methodist Church, a local congregation that boasts a regular attendance of nearly 2,000 people. Church leadership saw a need to focus on ways to address mental health within the congregation and larger community.
As a founding member of the church, Reed was asked to be part of the creation of a mental health ministry. Reed had lost a daughter to suicide in 2020, and was no stranger to the feelings of loss and the ensuing focus on mental health.
Reed began the process of interviewing people to lead the ministry, but found that no one quite fit the bill. After lengthy discussions with his family and church leadership, Reed took on the task himself.
“My attitude went from ‘why me, why is God calling me to do this’ to ‘why not me?'” Reed said. “We figured it out and jumped in with both feet.”
Through his corporate career, Reed had worked in behavioral healthcare in both nonprofit and for-profit capacities. Then came the question of how the ministry, called Beacon of Light, would operate.
Beacon of Light collaborates with The Center for Integrative Counseling and Psychology, which provided one contracted therapist to see patients in the Beacon of Light offices. The collaboration has now grown to three therapists, who are fully-licensed for all walks and stages of life, from play therapy to retirement.
“Since we started offering counseling about a year ago, it’s probably up to about 250 families that have come to us,” Reed said.
To use Beacon of Light services, patients do not have to be a member of the church or make a statement of faith. However, Reed believes that a strong foundation of faith combined with evidence-based clinical practices increase chances of recovery.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live,” Reed said. “If you want to come and see us, we’ll work with you.”
Beacon of Light patients schedule intake just like with any other new doctor. The ministry works with most major insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, United, Cigna, Aetna and Medicare.
“If you try and find a therapist right now that is in-network with major health insurance providers it is extremely difficult,” Reed said. “It may take you several months to get in. So trying to remove those barriers to provide access to treatment has been one of those keys.”
Beacon of Light is also working on the development of a comprehensive mental health framework and training program for churches to become mental health informed so they may deliver effective mental health programming within their membership and communities.
“We know that churches are on the front line of the mental health crisis,” said Reed. There are more than 380,000 churches imbedded in communities throughout the country, but most lack the knowledge, resources, and partners to address and triage various mental health conditions and needs.”
Reed has also started a podcast called Faith in Mind: Stories of Light and Hope where he shares stories from community members and discusses mental health-related topics with experts. The first season of the podcast is out now on the Beacon of Light website, on Amazon, Apple Podcasts and wherever else you get your podcasts.
“Our pilot program proved that if a church offers a mental health program, people will use it,” said Reed. “On average, someone struggling with mental health issues waits 11 years to seek help. We must remove barriers to treatment, and the church – often one of the first places people turn to when in crisis – is one of the easiest places to seek help. We encourage anyone in the community struggling with mental health issues to reach out to us. Each of us deserves joy in our lives, and if your mental health makes joy seem impossible, we can help.”