Minding the Gap: Improving Mental Health Access in African-American Communities
Georges, Catherine Alicia
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Session presented on Saturday, July 23, 2016: Purpose: This national initiative was developed to bring African American communities together with clinicians, policy makers, as well as faith and community leaders to discuss mental health disparities and mental health issues. This campaign focused on the development of a community level 'safety net' to enhance mental health and related services. This campaign discussed the role of health policy in improving equity in mental health while providing resources information for mental health services. The goals of the initiative : Develop a national network for mental health awareness, through community interaction; Encourage political activism to improve mental healthcare access; Equip the community with information needed to seek better mental healthcare; and Disseminate information that will spark positive conversations about mental illness and mental health care in all settings. Methods: Two (2) hour educational program with a one hour networking/interactive session Five (5) cities chosen to participate in the national project. The cities were chosen because of the potential collaboration of the faith based organizations, profession and community groups and colleges and universities. In these cities interested key persons were identified who became part of the planning committee for their respective cities. The format for the program was the same in each city. The keynote presentation discussed the extent of the mental health disparities, possible causative factors, the influence of culture and a call to action. The keynote speeches were done by former Surgeon Generals of the United States. The other presentations were done by representatives from the faith based community, psychiatrists, community/consumer based organizations and elected/policy officials. Program participants completed an evaluation form that had the following questions: What would you do differently in your practice or interaction with your respective patients or consumer groups? What was the most beneficial part of the program? Results: As a result of attending this Program, the primary thing I will do differently in my practice is: Make more connections Reconnect with other mental health professionals Make effective referrals I will consider more than before, the mental wellness along with the spiritual wellness of my congregants Encourage treatment beyond the group setting in church Educate the public in hopes of educating them about getting rid of stigmarelated to mental health issues Inform patients it is okay to seek help for mental illness Encourage community leaders Seek to partner and collaborate more Increase focus, also on cultural and spiritual Present ongoing clinical base in court procedures Look for Mental Illness more Personally inspired to seek more information and to make practical things happen that will be helpful to the church and community offer more pro bono services To inform my co-workers with the information presented here tonight To collaborate and be more resourceful Referral directs to mental health agencies more often Educating those with mental health issues Address mental health illness with the substance population Ask employer to screen for depression Offer resources presented tonight My approach to serving mentally disabled students will increase based on advocacy and education. I will seek greater skills, training, and education for myself Get better educated Educate my students and congregation about mental health Research the topic more and put in action what is learned Read the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health More pro bono To promote advocacy Incorporate spirituality more and use more community resources Make stronger strides toward integration of mind, body, and spirit Educating my coworkers on being more sensitive Combine medication and therapy with my patients Volunteer and connect with agencies that address mental health issues Share information with students and colleagues Tap more into personal client stigmas around mental health Promotion, advocacy, and education regarding mental illness/mental health to congregation Improve my discussions and language when discussing mental health. I will be aware of stigma and cultural differences based on difference (sensibility) The most beneficial part of this program was: Networking Pushing the issue of awareness Presenters were great. Points well taken, prevention is key. Have clergy involved Keynote speaker and panel discussion Content of presentations; networking The panel discussion: hearing perspectives and information Focus on the symptoms of the different types of mental health disorders Statistics given Obtaining updated information; networking A call to Action Everything/Every presentation and the panel discussion were beneficial The person that mentioned establishing a behavioral health ministry to confirm and define what will be a part of my purpose Review s/s of mental illness Recognition of dilemmas, need solutions also Dismantling mental health myths Increased sensitivity to cultural issues regarding mental health The information was insightful, although I have studied in and have been around the topic of mental health, I learned some new things. The keynote presenters and panel were highly resourceful and insightful andgave me opportunity to leaRNore about mental health Meeting other professional individuals Train ministers and ministers and health ministry leaders related to mental illness and stigma found in churches Panel including religious leaders Panel & discussion The diversity of the panel Enabled me to better serve my patients Networking and validation Sensitivity regarding race and faith issues Conclusion: In critically analyzing the attendance/participants and their comments the intent of the initiative, the National Black Nurses Foundation determined that the intent of the initiative to bring communities together with clinicians, policy makers, as well as faith and community leaders to discuss mental health was met. Further scrutiny of the participants comment revealed the importance of policies to enhance access to treatment and decreasing the disparities.