As a faith leader, I believe I am called to impact and fortify families. I am a pastor and a licensed mental health pastor, and throughout my years of service I have seen a tremendous impact on family life, especially in the Black/Brown communities, especially with regards to mental well-being. However, there has not been enough of a dialogue about it, nor has there been a push from our faith community to even talk about it and address it. It has been, and still is a “taboo” in these communities for so many reasons. As an oppressed people already with so many challenges, obstacles, and hurdles to deal with daily, the stigma that comes with “mental anything” is simply too much for most Black/Brown people.
What are churches and faith leaders really promoting when it comes to this delicate topic of mental well-being in our families? Faith or the church among the Black/Brown community has been, and still are in my opinion, the staying force for our communities. Pastors and influential community leaders are the gatekeepers. According to the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Black Americans say Black churches have helped promote racial equality. Other research has indicated that 90% of African Americans use religious coping in dealing with mental health issues. Yet how many of our faith leaders are recognizing this fact and providing resources, preaching sermons, hosting workshops/trainings on the subject and connecting their families to get the help they are not equipped to provide? Additional research says that Black/African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, however, they utilize mental health services about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans. Black/Brown churches and their leaders have in many cases created access to social, family, and job services/programs, political information, and helped to establish a sense of belonging. What an opportunity there is for faith leaders and the church to be even more abreast of the resources available and needed for their families regarding mental well-being!
Thinking about faith? Then we’ve got to consider mental health!
When I think of faith, I think of the scripture in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” As we look at Websters Dictionary 1828, faith is defined as “belief, the assent of the mind …” “Faith is an affectionate practical confidence in the testimony of God. Faith is a firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word; or a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty or those things which God has declared, and because he has declared them.” It is notable to see that this definition of faith begins with the agreement, acceptance, approval of the mind to God, His testimony, and its secure, fixed, steady, and strong glory to God.
It is time for us as the church, God’s family, to think about what we’re thinking about and help our fellow family members to do the same. If we are to live and operate our lives from faith, an assent of the mind, in other words an agreement, acceptance, and sanction of our minds to have practical (putting into motion) confidence, our assurance must be in the testimony of God. His word, all of it, is to be fixed, steady, and strong in this stance of our minds. The word of God has so many references regarding our minds. The nourishment of our soul, our mind, will, and emotions, has always been important; however, I don’t ever recall hearing so much about this in a practical way.
Counselors are part of God’s plan
Ephesians 2:10 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition) says, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” What does this scripture have to do with our soul care? I’m so glad you asked. If God, in His infinite wisdom so prepared automobile makers, lawyers, teachers, sanitation workers, carpenters, techs, Instagram and Facebook inventors, the list goes on and on of the people He predestined to be who they are, why is it so difficult to accept psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and even counselors, (and I say “even counselors,” which should be so acceptable because one of the positions Jesus held was that of Counselor, yes, remember)?
God is the one that has created us with His plan in mind, and our minds are to be in alignment with His, and His plans. He wants us to take care of all of who we are, and our mind is an important part of us—so goes the mind—so goes the body and spirit. That is why Romans 12:2 is so crucial; a renewal of our minds to God’s word, His plans, and His purposes will be the catalyst for us to be transformed for real. This is the beginning step of soul care, renewal of the mind, and while there may be challenges that are insurmountable, as in the Black/Brown families daily, there is help from God and our siblings.
Acknowledging generational trauma
Resmaa Menakem, in his book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, talks about trauma and how it is routinely passed on from person to person—and generation to generation. He says that among Black/Brown people, “trauma is literally in our blood,” and says that the “deepest emotions involve the activation of a single bodily structure: our soul nerve.” Soul care is an ultimate and essential care needed and faith leaders have an open window in this area to really make an impact on their families and communities to help them experience transformation from God’s word and God’s creation. I encourage every faith leader to first look at your soul, your mind, your will, and your emotions, and answer the question: how are you nurturing your soul? Then help ask that question to your families and provide the word and resources so they can receive what they need to live transformational lives to God’s glory. Blessings.
Connecting Race, Faith, and Mental Health: How BIPOC members of Gen Z combine these identities