Friday, July 11, 2014

APA Hosts Meeting of the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership

“My life today is built on a spiritual foundation, living in the sunlight of the spirit,” said former Congressman Patrick Kennedy in an address this morning at the headquarters of APA. Speaking at a remarkable gathering hosted by APA of more than 40 leaders from the faith and mental health communities, the former congressman and co-sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act described his own recovery from alcohol and substance abuse and the important role that spirituality played in that recovery.

Today’s event at APA inaugurates the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership, a collaboration between psychiatrists and clergy aimed at fostering a dialogue between the two fields, reducing stigma, and accounting for spiritual dimensions as people seek care. The convening organizations are APA, the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF), and the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People With Disabilities.

Also speaking this morning were Charles Nemeroff, M.D., who described the neurobiological and genetic basis of mental illness; Nancy Kehoe, R.S.C.J., Ph.D., a Roman Catholic nun and clinical psychologist who spoke about building bridges between faith and mental health; Curtis Ramsey Lucas, M.Div., managing director of resource development at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, who is coordinating IDAC’s partnership with APF, who spoke about current efforts within the faith community to reach out to those with mental illness; and Annelle Primm, M.D., M.P.H., director of APA’s Office of Diversity and Health Equity, who spoke about APA’s efforts to reach out to minority and faith communities.

"The agenda for this partnership is ambitious but reflects the scope of the challenges we face,” said APA President Paul Summergrad, M.D. “There is much to be done to reduce stigma, enhance education about, and address the prevalence of, mental illness in our society, so working together is imperative. This July also marks APA's Diversity Mental Health Month, which matters because studies have shown that many groups, such as Hispanics and African Americans, are more inclined to reach out to a member of their faith community than to a mental health professional when experiencing signs of mental illness. APA is deeply committed to entering into a respectful dialogue with faith-based leaders and to listen, learn, and provide the best evidence-based education about mental illness we can provide."

For more on the partnership, see the Psychiatric News article "APA, Foundation Partner With Interfaith Disability Coalition."

(image: Sylvia Johnson)


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