Mental Health in Faith Based Communities

Guest blog from Minister Monique Tarver, Mental Health and Spirituality Trainer/Wellness Educator.

A connection to faith has long been recognized as having a deeply profound impact on the emotional well-being of people. Many studies reveal that when faith is included in wellness planning, individuals experience shorter recovery times, fewer hospitalizations and fewer relapses. In fact, a 2009 survey of mental health consumers and family members, conducted by the California Mental Health and Spirituality Initiative, revealed that 88 percent of African Americans agreed or strongly agreed that faith is an essential component to their or their family member’s wellness.

During a given year, clergy see more people than psychologists and psychiatrists combined, making the church and its leadership a first choice for many individuals in times of personal distress.  As first-responders, African American faith leaders play a compelling role in community messaging and it is imperative that community leaders are well equipped to respond appropriately to the mental health needs of the community while removing barriers to care.

Mental health stigma is a significant barrier to accessing the needed support and care for individuals facing mental wellness concerns. Having the conversation (sometimes for the first time) with trusted community leaders with cultural awareness reduces the possibility of delaying optimal wellness for individuals and families.

The assurance that mental wellness awareness is uplifted in the community often begins with Faith Leaders. For this reason, partnering with the African American Faith Community is helpful, not only to foster collaborative relationships for on-going support, but also for preventative care and the reduction of the pronounced health disparities found in the African American Community. Encouraging the mental health and faith communities to mutually learn from and respect one another is a progressive and necessary step in the right direction.

The following are a few helpful tips to for faith leaders serving the African American community:

  1. Realize that mental health conditions are medical conditions that are very common. It is very likely that several families in your congregation are impacted by mental health in some way or another, which makes mental health significant for the entire church.
  2. Mental health conditions are like all other medical conditions and should be treated as such. The individuals and families seeking your guidance deserve to have their needs addressed appropriately and from an accurately informed source. To learn more about mental health, Faith Leaders are encouraged to take the Mental Health 101 for African American Faith Leaders as part of the Mental Health Friendly Communities Training series. For more information contact Minister Monique Tarver at [email protected].
  3. Despite mental health diagnoses, individuals living with mental health concerns are valuable community members who deserve equal opportunity to offer their gifts, talents, and strengths to the community.
  4. Individuals living with mental health concerns are beloved and are connected to others who also need to feel included and supported.
  5. Faith communities should not seek to replace trained mental health services providers, rather seek opportunities to collaborate and work together to achieve optimal wellness for the individual and the community.

 

minister moniqueMinister Monique Tarver is the author and lead facilitator of Mental Health 101 training for Faith/Spiritual Leaders and a Spirituality Consultant for various state and local county agencies to support the role of spirituality/faith in mental wellness and recovery; including the CalMHSA Each Mind Matters Campaign. She is a member of the Statewide Mental Health and Spirituality Initiative’s Steering Committee, one third of the Mental Health Friendly Communities Training Team, as well as the Program Manager of the mental health division of Good Times Ahead Family Ministries, a ministry she co-founded with her husband in 2000.