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MENTAL HEALTH IN THE BLACK CHURCH & COMMUNITY

What is Mental heath?

Mental illnesses date back to the beginning of time and are said to have been written into such scriptures as Ephesians 4:23, “and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”  At one point it was thought that a mental illness was a curse.  Compared to other racial groups, the African American community has the largest number of untreated mental health disorders.

Mental health disorders have stigmas associated with them making it difficult for many of those who have disorders to acknowledge them, almost placing a shame, or a feeling of guilt on them for having the illness.  This being said, the pressure felt on an African American is twice the shame and guilt that comes from both the outside community as well as within their own.  This creates a larger wedge of denial and the inability to accept help.

The black church’s educational ministerial staff can support educating others on the importance in the development of critical awareness around mental illnesses, and the positive identifiers that need to be associated with the illness to remove the stigmas that have been linked to mental health disorders in the black church and community.

The black church can play a vital role in educating and assisting the community about mental health services available, such as access to healthcare, availability for free clinical evaluations, places to receive medications for treatment, or assisting people to complete paperwork for social security benefits, Medicaid, etc.

The black church must lead the development of critical awareness not only in the church but in the surrounding community as well.  Scripture tells us that Jesus cared for the sick and the lame, and offered spiritual freedom, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”  (Romans 8:6).  Many people view mental health disorders as a weakness or punishment from God, as a result of this stigma conversations that need to be addressed are being ignored.

Types of Mental Health Illnesses

Depression
Feeling sad and depressed for weeks and/or months. This is not about feeling sad. This feeling is most often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness, a lack of energy (or feeling “weighed down”) and having little to no energy to do anything, even the smallest things become a challenge.

Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S. and impacts African Americans at a higher rate than any other group, especially African American women. Anxiety Disorders range from Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Trauma exposure is high in African Americans who live in stressful urban environments. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are common outcomes of trauma exposure and are understudied in African Americans.

ADHD/ADD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)/Attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a developmental disorder where there are significant problems with attention, hyperactivity or acting impulsively.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by severe, unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and stormy relationships.

Schizophrenia Disorder
Schizophrenia causes people to lose touch with reality, often in the form of hallucinations, delusions and extremely disordered thinking and behavior. 

Eating Disorders
When you become so preoccupied with food and weight issues that you find it hard to focus on other aspects of your life, it may be a sign of an eating disorder.

Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorders can refer to substance use or substance dependence.  Symptoms include Behavioral changes, Physical changes, and Social changes.

Mental Health In Prison

Mental health issues seem to be a very large problem and a big reason why so many of our black men and women are incarcerated. What can the black community, or the black church do to help prevent this issue from continuing?

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.  People of color, mainly blacks, are imprisoned more than whites; 1,408 of 100,000 blacks are incarcerated, while only 275 of 100,000 whites are incarcerated.

Black men as a group, experience larger amounts of psychological stress as a result of discrimination, social and economic challenges, and racial injustices they encounter on a daily basis. A new study by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that women in prisons and jails report having mental health problems at a much higher rate than incarcerated men.

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