August 18, 2006
Recent African American Faith Responses to Mental Illness
Rev. Byron Williams, a syndicated columnist and pastor of the
This pastor, writes Williams in his column, "stated that those who may be experiencing mental health issues know that such problems are not a sickness but rather a demonic spirit. He went on to further suggest that such problems could be alleviated almost immediately in 'the name of Jesus!'"
Williams dedicates the rest of his column to questioning the approach taken by this pastor and calling on his fellow African American pastors to recognize the complex nature of mental illness and to respond appropriately.
Read Rev. Williams full column from July 27, 2006, online at The Huffington Post
"As a pastor, I believe that spirituality is a key ingredient to positive mental health, but that means the church should be working in tandem with mental health professionals and not offering simplistic remedies. More and more pastors must join forces with mental health professionals. This is particularly important for
communities of color, who tend to have different attitudes about mental health from that of the dominant culture.
How might African American pastors work with mental health professionals to assist in helping parishioners and the
community at-large to remove the stigma of mental health disease? The black church must assume a supportive rather than adversarial role if the portion of the African American community that lives with mental health disease is to liberate itself from the prison of hopelessness."
One example of a partnership between the African American church and the mental health
The event, held July 29, featured pastors and black church leaders both as participants and speakers. Topics included "Dispelling Myths," "The Helping Role of Ministers," and "African American Mental Health."
For more information about this event, contact NAMI Decatur. This is just one of many initiatives that NAMI groups around the country are involved with. Are you involved with mental illness outreach to or through African American faith
Hurricanes Heighten Challenge
The challenges faced by black churches in responding to the crisis of mental illness in their
Studies have shown that incidences of substance abuse, depression, and suicide have increased in the Gulf region since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Local ministers often find themselves on the frontlines. Even those who would like to partner with the mental health establishment may find themselves out of luck.
As reported by Reuters on August 13,
From the Reuters article:
"It is, at times, overwhelming," said Rev. Larry Campbell, assistant pastor of
in the Central City neighborhood. He has counseled worshipers with substance abuse problems and suicidal thoughts, referring some to mental health professionals, when possible. Israelite Baptist Church