MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS IN THE BLACK CHURCH: EXPERIENCE OF THE CLERGY
Ross, Andrea T. J.
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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers have demonstrated the impact of the Black Church on Blacks’ health behavior (Lumpkins et al., 2013; Aten, Topping, Denney, & Bayne, 2010; Williams, Gorman, & Hankerson, 2014). I completed a transcendental phenomenological qualitative study (Moustakas, 1994) to describe the experiences of twelve (8 male and 4 female) clergy of the Black Church responding to mental health crises of their congregants. Each participant completed a demographic questionnaire and a semi-structured interview to describe their experience with crisis and suicide among members in their congregation. I analyzed the data using the Van Kaam method (Moustakas, 1994) through the lens of critical race theory (Delagado & Stefancic, 2013) and symbolic interactionism (Vejar, 2015). I identified six major themes with subthemes from the interviews: (a) a definition of crisis (b) cultural expectations around mental health, (b) causes of mental health crisis, (c) clergy response, (d) barriers to responding, and (e) identified needs. The common factor was community or the sense of connection with others through common attitudes, interests, and goals. Some of the implications for practice were (a) Black clergy, faith-based organizations, and counselors could partner and focus on crisis and suicide interventions through community-based education; (b) counselors could partner with clergy to offer services within their church to include counseling services and psychoeducational groups or trainings; and (c) counselor educators could provide increased opportunities for training focused on v spirituality in counseling and collaborative treatment with religious and spiritual leaders in the Black community. As Blacks have been socialized not to seek counseling, an increased presence of professional counselors in the Black community may increase helpseeking behaviors through relationships and interactions which creates socialization (Vejar, 2015).