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Mental Health, Spirituality, and Faith: How Do They Connect? 

February 28, 2022

This semester UNC-Chapel Hill will offer monthly virtual mental health seminars addressing the intersection of mental health with related topics such as faith, addition/substance use, intimate partner violence, and vulnerable populations.  

The initial seminar, Mental Health, Spirituality, and Faith: How Do They Connect?, occurred on Monday, February 28, from noon until 1:30 p.m.  

Aaron Bachenheimer, Executive Director of Off-Campus Student Life and liaison to Carolina’s Campus Ministers, facilitated the dialogue.

The conversation was framed by a diverse panel of experts discussing the role that spirituality and faith can play in mental health and their biographies are available below.

Attendees had the opportunity to listen, learn, and contribute thoughts and questions during the event, but that portion of the program was not recorded.

Faculty Presenter: 

Karon Johnson, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Instructor and Field Instructor, School of Social Work 

Karon Johnson is a graduate of the UNC School of Social Work and currently serves as a clinical instructor and member of the field faculty. She teaches direct practice courses and supports students in placements related to adult mental health and substance use.

She also maintains a private clinical practice in Durham, N.C., focusing on trauma, grief and loss, and diverse life transitions.

Her research interests include ethics, spirituality and social work, and trauma, including grief and loss.

Panel: 

Elizabeth Harrison, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Master of Divinity 

Elizabeth Harrison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with a dual master's in Divinity from Duke Divinity School and Social Work from UNC School of Social Work. This educational background allows her to approach therapy from a comprehensive, holistic lens and has given her deep respect for the unique spirituality of each individual. Elizabeth is dedicated to restoring balance and wholeness in her client’s lives. She uses a collaborative approach that empowers clients to connect with the source of strength and wisdom within themselves.

Rabbi Melissa Simon, Senior Jewish Educator for UNC Hillel 

Rabbi Melissa B. Simon provides students with rabbinic support, facilitates students’ meaningful Jewish experiences, and crafts the Jewish educational opportunities for UNC Hillel. Prior to joining the North Carolina Hillel team, Rabbi Melissa was the Jewish Chaplain and Hillel Director at Muhlenberg College and the Director of Lifelong Learning at Shir Tikvah, a Reform synagogue in Minneapolis, MN. Rabbi Simon received a Master's Degree in Jewish Education and Hebrew Letters and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Melissa is passionate about Jewish education, social justice, inclusive Jewish communities, and empowering young people.

Simon Stokes, Campus Minister for Reformed University Fellowship 

Simon Stokes is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, where he received two Master’s degrees: one for divinity and the other for counseling. Recently, he completed a Doctorate of Ministry at Duke University (but don't hold that against him, Tar Heels!). Originally, he hails from Dothan, Alabama and graduated in 2006 from Emory University where he pursued a degree in International Studies. After college, Simon worked as an RUF intern at Auburn University. It was here that he developed a heart for college students, as well as decided to enter vocational ministry.

Imam Abdul Waheed, UNC Muslim Students Association religious staff member

Imam Abdul Hafeez Waheed has for the last 42 years been an active member of the Muslim American Community in Association with the renowned leader and thinker Imam W. Deen Mohammed. As an associate of Imam Mohammed, he works tirelessly to arrange and seek opportunities to present the correct picture of Islam in different venues. Imam Waheed has been serving on the Religious Life staff at Duke for over 20 years. Currently, Imam Waheed is an instructor in Duke's Continuing Education program - Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) - teaching classes such as "New Perspective of Islam: Hopeful Vision for Our Times, Religious Diversity and Racism, Religion and Reconciliation; tensions in America."  He is a member of the UNC-CH Religious staff working with the Muslim Student Association and the Program Associate for the Center for Muslim Life (CML) at Duke University. In 2008, Imam Waheed was among several religious life staff chaplains at Duke University that led an Interfaith trip to Jerusalem for students of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths. In 1987, he performed the Hajj (pilgrimage to the Sacred House in Mecca). Imam Waheed leads a series of conversations titled “Community and Public Education on Islam,” held at churches, synagogues, and other institutions. Imam Waheed is actively involved in a Scriptural Reasoning group study amongst Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Durham.    

Imam Waheed has been a respected leader in the Durham area for the last 31 years.  His greatest asset is building relationships with all of the major arteries in the community. He has been an active member of many organizations and held various leadership positions on several committees including Durham Congregations in Action, Urban Ministries, Triangle Interfaith Alliance, Durham Human Relations Commission, as well as Chief of Police Advisory Committee. In recognition of his commitment to the community, Imam Waheed received the 1996 MLK, Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award. On January 6, 2017, Imam Waheed participated in the Inaugural Prayer Service for Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina.

Rev Mary Cat Young, Associate Rector for University Ministry

The Rev. Mary Cat Young, an Episcopal priest, has been involved in campus ministry for 20 years in the Twin Cities, Boston, New York, North and South Carolina. She approaches InterFaith and ecumenical relationships with a deep commitment for mutual respect and companionship with students and young adults from an open and affirming desire to resource them for a fuller expression of their whole self and their connection to the holy. Chaplain Mary Cat serves as the Associate Recor of Campus and Young Adult Ministries at The Chapel of the Cross.

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