The Leesburg Community Church will hold its first ever Hopefest Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday, September 10. The fair stems from the church’s larger program “Hope Initiative for Mental Health,” which strives to bring awareness to mental health challenges by providing resources and support to those in need.
Medical professionals, members of Congress, and law enforcement personnel will lead panel discussions about suicide awareness, substance abuse, and addiction recovery from 9 AM to 2 PM. The event will also host breakout sessions for teens, veterans, and people struggling with eating disorders with the goal of create open dialogue on topics like, anxiety, stress reduction and positive thinking.
Doug Wall is the church’s worship pastor and leads the initiative. He expects about 500 people to come to the event and has partnered with up to 50 vendors and organizations. “We want people to know we are trying to get help to those in need,” he says.
Wall says he became motivated to think about mental health after a woman committed suicide shortly after attending one of the church’s Sunday services. The event inspired Wall to attend a conference about mental illness at the California megachurch Saddleback. “It was remarkable,” Wall says. He says after hearing conference speakers talk about how religious groups can react and alleviate the increasing problems of suicide and depression, he returned to Loudoun County and urged the Rev. Alan Stanford, senior pastor of Leesburg Community Church, to start the wellness initiative.
Wall says all people of all faiths and beliefs are welcome at Hopefest. “The key factor here is that about five or six out of every ten people with mental health issues come to their place of worship first to seek help.” Wall says most ministries are equipped to make people feel safe and provide hope. The fair will lay out facts and myths around mental health and provide resources for aid and relief.
“I think people whisper about this a lot,” Wall says. “We want to create a noise that people won’t be able to turn away from.”
The event coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day and is free and open to the public.