The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health describe mental disorders as conditions (both occasional or chronic) that affect thinking, feelings, mood, and behavior. Many culprits can lead to mental illness, including:

  • genes and family history
  • traumatizing life experiences, such as abuse or serious illness
  • stress and chemical imbalances
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while in the womb

Maybe someone is simply overwhelmed, feeling lonely or isolated. More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some time in their life. Whatever the trigger, mental disorders are not caused by character flaws. They have nothing to do with being lazy or weak. Fighting for Mental Health Entrepreneur Caroline S. Cooper is the founder and executive director of In God’s Corner Ministry, a recently established 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing mental health services for Lee’s Summit and Eastern Jackson County, Mo. Cooper has no trouble at all sympathizing with suffering individuals she encounters in her work. In fact, she refers to them as her “mental health peers.”  After years of fluctuating between depression and anxiety, Cooper was herself diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Discovering exactly what she was dealing with inspired Cooper to find tools that could help her. Through In God’s Corner Ministry, she and her staff of skilled volunteers now share those same types of empowering resources with others. “We have to recognize there is hope for a better life, and then take steps toward a more promising future by educating ourselves on our conditions,” Cooper said. “Along the way, we need to identify people who can give us support, even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone to find them.” Cooper, who holds a master’s degree in theology from Calvary Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., journaled throughout her own personal fight. In 2005, she turned her thoughts into a depression workbook, using the analogy of a boxing match to name it In This Corner: Battling Depression from Inside the Ring. Encouraged by the success of her written works and speaking engagements, Cooper attempted to launch In This Corner, a ministry based on her self-published book. “With a lack of support and poor timing, the ministry didn’t work,” she said. “I tried again a few years later, with the same lack of results. I wondered if I had been wrong about this calling.” A Boxing Buddy Then Cooper met – and immediately clicked with – Jane Alexander, her agency’s future mental health coordinator, at a weekly depression support group Cooper was leading. “For the first time, I met someone whose passion for promoting mental health awareness matched my own,” Cooper said. After much discussion and planning between the two women, Cooper relaunched her original ministry idea, now named In God’s Corner Ministry, with the tagline, “Where Mental Health and Faith Connect,” to reflect the agency’s faith-based approach.  On April 14, 2018, Cooper filed the articles of incorporation for In God’s Corner Ministry. A week later, 40 people attended their first official event, a mental health educational forum (originally conceived by Alexander) featuring speakers, an informational video, a discussion panel, and free printed resources from respected mental health organizations. “We received positive feedback, and many people expressed their appreciation for the event,” Cooper said. “We had to extend our Q&A session because of the amount of interest in learning about mental health and wellness.” Keeping God in the Ring Cooper believes that, although the stigma of mental illness has lessened over the years, the need for education and encouragement is just as strong. In God’s Corner Ministry provides faith-based services including training workshops, presentations, podcasts, and mental health support groups.  “In our mental health support groups, we use Bible studies to grow closer to the Lord and each other,” she explained. “We apply God’s Word to our situations as individuals living with, and learning to cope better with, our various mental health challenges.  “When we have events at churches, we use Scripture to support our presentation and demonstrate that God is always near and that the Holy Spirit can give us a spirit of power to help us overcome issues. In the (secular) community, we take a more generic approach to reach people with a message of hope. We will invite attendees to talk to us if they want to learn more about how God has worked in our lives.” “Caroline has struck an amazing niche between the mental health and faith communities,” said Anne Rauch, director of marketing and development at Mercy and Truth Medical Missions, a medical safety net clinic located in Kansas City, Kan. Rauch notes that both communities need to work together to offer places where mental illness can be discussed in an open environment. “We need to remind people that there is hope, and what better place to find hope than in the faith community!” As her own startup continues to blossom, Cooper offers this encouragement to other potential entrepreneurs: “Are you deeply passionate about your idea? Do you have natural talent in this area? I’ve been told that when we feel called to a certain business, whether faith-based or not, we should consider it an assignment from the Lord. If God has placed an idea in your heart, step out in faith and watch Him work!”