National Alliance on Mental Illness
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African American Faith-Based Initiative

Recovery for All
December 2008

Across the nation, congregations of all denominations bring African American families together and provide emotional support to their members. Researchers have found evidence that African Americans seek help from the clergy more frequently than from other professionals. Mental health issues are no exception. When dealing with mental illness, African American families might look for guidance, support, and understanding from their faith community. It is for these reasons that the Multicultural Action Center has created a toolkit to assist NAMIs in engaging African American congregations in discussion about important mental illness information and available supports.

To develop this education initiative, the Multicultural Action Center has partnered with the African American faith community to provide much needed education and support. The project began by seeking input from the field and convening a 15-person group comprised of pastors, NAMI leaders, and other experts from around the country to participate in an advisory role.

From the input received, the following goals were established for the education program:

  • Educate African American congregations about mental illness
  • Decrease mental health stigma in the African American community
  • Increase understanding and awareness of mental health recovery
  • Foster dialogue in African American congregations about mental illness
  • Introduce NAMI education and support programs.

A draft toolkit was created that features a 60 minute loosely scripted program presented by a team of three consisting of a consumer, family member and a faith leader. The presentation utilizes stories from a companion educational booklet, A Family Guide to Mental Health: What You Need to Know(available for purchase through the NAMI bookstore here), inviting the audience to identify warning signs and symptoms of psychological distress and discuss how best to support individuals affected by mental illness. The program is currently being piloted in Trenton, NJ, Minneapolis, MN and Atlanta, GA. The final toolkit will be released in 2009.

 here for more information and future updates on the NAMI African American Faith-Based Initiative.