Could the Church Lady Really be Depressed?

This is a very interesting phenomenon that almost paralyzes the African-American community. In the Caucasian culture, going to see the psychiatrist/therapist is not taboo and is usually a welcoming opportunity. Now the big difference here may be based on what the different religious communities think about mental healthcare. Now, I attend a main stream Pentecostal church. I have heard such things as, “The Lord will bring you out! Just trust the Lord, baby! He cares! Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!” Now, this is where the vulnerability lies, what if none of the above affirmations work for you and you become more ill? You should immediately go to see a licensed clinician.

Now, I can tell you that clinical depressions don’t just go away, they require treatment. Most of these patients need care immediately. Faith-Based interventions are alright when appropriate, but the problem here is that most pastors, and their staff, do not have the appropriate training or clinical education to deal with mentally ill patients. At many of our seminaries, there is no formal training on the recognition of mental diseases or defects. I have heard that some of them address some basic theories of counseling, but the truth is that training is most probably limited. In-order to be effective at counseling, one has to recognize the illness. Depression and Schizophrenia are brain diseases and need to be treated by licensed professionals. We cannot forget those nasty Personality Disorders, which certainly require the tools of a skilled and licensed practitioner.

Here is another issue; mentally ill persons are becoming a part of the fabric in most African-American churches. We need a call to action, in all of our churches, to deal with this new and serious problem. The range of issues is from Depression to Relationship Problems. Many persons currently divorcing have tried Pastoral Counseling to no avail. Yes, there are several myths concerning mental illness, but together as a team we can combat the ignorance. The strongest myth that has to be addressed is “Your Faith will Conquer All!” This cliché is very common but very dangerous. Mental illnesses are medical problems and should be treated just like hypertension and diabetes. When treated appropriately, depression in particular, can have great clinical outcomes. However, when dismissed as pass and review, suicide and other horrible sequelae can prevail (self mutilation, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc.).

Dr. O

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