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My Turn: Holding out for hope

For the Monitor
Published: 10/17/2021 7:00:23 AM

Everyone would agree it’s better to start your day feeling hopeful, like it will be a good day, a happy day even, but in New Hampshire that may be a bit more challenging for some.

We live in a state where many of our citizens struggle with substance misuse, including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and various forms of opioids. For those wanting help, treatment and recovery resources are scarce and difficult to maintain. We hear weekly in the news about the increase of homelessness in our cities and a lack of resources to help those most in need. Our hospitals have people waiting in emergency rooms for beds to open up to help individuals struggling with mental health concerns.

Considering all of these issues and more, where does one find hope? The people that society might turn to for help to cope with these challenges are counselors in mental health settings but we know that is a field that is struggling to fill open positions.

Some people know these issues as social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. Our state is suffering with these social issues. Our families, coworkers and neighbors are going about life looking for support, but how many people know where to go when they are suffering? How many people know that hope and help is right in their community and they have options that they can explore?

Did you know that New Hampshire is one of the four New England states with the lowest religious attendance in the country? This is for any religion or faith. Faith is grounded in hope and the belief that things will get better. Who wouldn’t want to have that? Who wouldn’t want to give hope to their children?

Faith and religion are not one size fits all. There are many beliefs and options to explore. Just like some people prefer a certain coffee shop or fast food restaurant, people have the freedom to choose where and how they worship or pray. The key here is they have an option.

When we look at the social determinants of health one of the solutions is human connections and a sense of belonging. Our church communities are made up of the people who live, work and play in our communities. They are our neighbors. Our churches provide hope, but also help with outreach programs to help the homeless, provide food to the food insecure, meeting space for recovery support meetings, clothing to keep people warm, and support and guidance for the soul for those who are looking or searching for it.

In a world where diversity and inclusion are common words that many are arguing about the importance of everyone becoming more familiar with, some still have an issue with extending that same inclusion to our faith and religious communities. It is time to encourage our communities to embrace our faith based partners who want to serve, want to help and genuinely care about the health, safety and well-being of their New Hampshire neighbors. They are the very essence of hope!

(Celeste Clark is executive director of Raymond Coalition For Youth.)

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