Mental illness is a complex personal and social problem. In the African American community, cultural and ethnic stigma concerning mental illness often discourages this population from seeking the help they need. African Americans are more likely to rely on religious coping strategies such as prayer and/or informal trusted community social supports such as a senior pastor, members of a ministerial team who provide pastoral care in their churches, family members, and a limited number of friends. Implementation of a unique church-based initiative for depression/suicidality screening and stigma reduction, and collaborative efforts with community mental health providers, are promising steps toward optimizing diagnosis, treatment, follow-up for depression in African American persons in faith-based organizations. This project attempted to elaborate on and clarify the link between stigma, such as beliefs related to mental illness, and how education could influence and improve pastoral care by ministerial leaders for mental health issues in their congregants.
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