Why Am I Doing This?
This blog has been something that has weighed on my heart for a LONG time! Since I decided I wanted to be a psychologist, I knew that a major part of my call was to walk the line between professional mental health service provision and the way people of faith discuss and make sense of issues of mental health and mental illness. Politics has left a tension between the mental health and faith communities which is slowly, slowly being chipped away. But, it still exists. The tragedy of such a divide is that people often don’t get what they need to get better! In the Black community, this effect is magnified because of our culturally ingrained mistrust of things outside our nuclear communities. Historically, this has good reason. But now, it’s hurting us. We are so afraid to talk about our issues that we put on a good face while suffering silently. We can no longer “pray it away”- people are dying (literally and figuratively) and we can’t stand by and let it happen any longer. I am by no means suggesting that folks who are in mental or emotional pain don’t need prayer. They absolutely do. But if you found out you had an infection, would you stop at prayer? Nope! You would go to the doctor, get some medicine, and PRAY that it does what it was designed to do. Furthermore, for believers, much of our anguish stems from disconnection in our spiritual relationship. Girding ourselves up spiritually is one of the ways we can move toward a place of wellness and wholeness.
So, this blog is a place to talk about spiritual and emotional wellness, barriers to it, and ways to make it happen at the community and personal levels. As a general rule, what I say here is based on my opinions as a believer, and as a psychologist. I hope to open a dialogue that frees people up to have these discussions in the light, rather than trying to go it alone. I hope that this perspective can help us work toward resolving a conflict that does not have to exist. I hope somebody gets blessed!
You may be wondering if this is really even an issue. Yes! You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some recent statistics on the current state of affairs from the U.S. Office of Minority Health .
- African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
- The death rate from suicide for African American men was almost four times that for African American women, in 2009.
- African Americans living below the poverty level are 3x more likely to experience psychological distress.
- Adult African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.
In addition, there are some cultural/societal issues that influence our ability to seek help:
- disparity in the amount of African American mental health professionals
- decreased likelihood of being appropriately insured
- differences in communication styles
- tendency to experience shame and stigma; seeing mental health issues as a personal weakness
Often, these suffering people end up in churches, at the alter and in their pastor’s offices. One of the challenges we face is finding ways to support people within the walls of the church while also helping them to seek the support they need, sometimes in the office of a professional mental health care provider. The bottom line is, silence is not an option. We need to provide a space for people to admit they are hurting, support them in their pain, and journey with them to wholeness.
Here are some scriptures to guide our endeavors:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10– Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
Romans 8:37-38: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rules, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Psalm 9:9 “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
I’m excited to join this important conversation. I’m hoping that this blog helps us all to make choices that promote wellness, and that flow from our connection with the well of eternal life. The promise of Christ is that connection to the Kingdom provides freedom! Remember what he told the woman at the well: “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Spiritually, we have been given the tools we need to make choices to support wellness and wholeness. We are empowered to make well choices by drawing from the well of life!