Americans are in a mental health crisis – especially African Americans. Can churches help?

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Americans are in a mental health crisis – especially African Americans. Can churches help?

Americans are in a mental health crisis – especially African Americans. Can churches help?

 

Centuries of systemic racism and everyday discrimination in the U.S. have left a major mental health burden on African American communities, and the past few years have dealt especially heavy blows.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionindicate that Black Americans are twice as likely to die of COVID-19, compared with white Americans. Their communities have also been hit disproportionately by job losses, food insecurity and homelessness as a result of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, racial injustice and high-profile police killings of Black men have amplified stress. During the summer of 2020, amid both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, a CDC survey found that 15% of Black respondents had “seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days,” compared with 8% of white respondents.

For a variety of reasons, many African Americans face barriers to mental health care. But as a sociologist who focuses on community-based organizations, I find that strengthening relationships between churches and mental health providers can be one way to increase access to needed services. In research with my collaborators Eunice Wong and Kathryn Derose, I analyzed data on the prevalence of mental health care provisionamong religious congregations and found that many African American congregations offer such programs.

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