For centuries African Americans have turned to the church to assist with all difficulties, including mental health issues. However, many congregations and religious leaders were not and have not been equipped with the tools and training to adequately assist those that turn to the church for mental health assistance. But, low and behold, the church is now making an enormous leap toward preparing to assist those in need of mental health support.
African American churches nationwide have partnered with Mental Health First Aid to provide skills and tools to recognize mental health difficulties, and appropriately respond to mental health emergencies. This is truly one of the pieces that have been missing in the movement to de-stigmatize mental health and mental illness within the African American community. Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program, that uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess mental health crises, select intervention methods and provide initial aid. The training program also addresses risk factors and warning signs of specific common mental illnesses as anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues.
Now instead of a congregation, pastor, minister, or religious leader saying, “Just pray about it” or “I’ll pray for you” they will additionally be able to assist in getting those in need the mental health assistance needed to get mentally healthy.