In this series about mental health and race, we have looked at a few of the systemic issues and health inequities that people of color face. It is important to consider these barriers as we work to destigmatize mental health in our faith communities. A foundation of this healing is that predominantly white churches must listen and show compassion to the concerns of BIPOC (Black and Brown, Indigenous, People of Color) persons. This lifelong work allows our ministries to be sacred, relevant, and a place of safety for all people.
What are the next steps? How do we begin and/or sustain this work? With the acknowledgment that there are overarching barriers, stigmas, and systemic racism that impact even our individual and community mental health, we now must act. The goals of this is for our ministries to be: anti-racist, trauma-informed, and culturally competant.
Anti-racism: The continual engagement of confronting, dismantling, and healing racist ideas and beliefs that we hold individually and in our communities. This includes all levels of racism, from our own thoughts and actions, to also holding institutions and larger communities accountable too.
Trauma-Informed Faith Community: A faith community that productively addresses trauma and normalizes professional therapy. Trauma-informed ministry is a strengths-based approach that fosters recovery and healing through safe and collaborative relationships, and actively learns new ways of compassionately and effectively approaching trauma and mental health concerns. A trauma-informed faith community realizes the impact of trauma and integrates knowledge about trauma, and empowers community members to bring their full selves into the community. You can learn more with our PHW Becoming a Trauma-Informed Faith Community Tool-Kit.
Cultural Competence: The ability to do life with those that have diverse beliefs, backgrounds, and values. This includes considering all that makes up a person or community, including race, experiences, historical perspectives, access to resources, and more.
When a faith community works on these three foundations, mental health will naturally be addressed and destigmatized in the life of the church. People will feel fully welcome. It will be evident that the faith community is thriving.
We must also continue to evaluate the ways we “show up” in our communities. Even with our best intentions, we may project what is called “white dominant culture” into our congregations and larger communities. All of this impacts mental health: the way we interpret mental health concerns, assign meaning to such, and then how we handle mental health concerns.
Faith communities have tremendous opportunity to be agents of compassion, healing, hope, and peace for those living with mental health concerns, of all races. We must get this right. We have the opportunity to heal the generational impact of trauma and racism. This is needed and sacred work that God joins us in.
Consider these trainings and resources: