Many faith communities are at the front lines of the fight for better mental health. A faith community – whether a mosque, church, synagogue or temple – provides a space for people to connect with others and to find and give support in trying times. More and more, faith communities are bringing Mental Health First Aid trainings to their members to improve mental health, raise awareness and save lives.
For Manhattan psychiatrist Dr. Pierre Arty, Mental Health First Aid is invaluable to him and his congregation. After spotting ThriveNYC advertisements throughout the city, Dr. Arty introduced Mental Health First Aid to his church, which has lost members to suicide in the past.
The training, Dr. Arty said, gave awareness to congregation members. It helped them demystify and discuss difficult topics like suicide. Mental health can be a sensitive topic in religious communities because it is often unclear what requires spiritual care versus mental health treatment. Mental Health First Aid has helped members of his church determine these lines and create a space where mental health intervention is acceptable.
Dr. Arty believes that Mental Health First Aid is especially beneficial for medical professionals. The training has also helped him take off his “doctor hat” and work with the community. “[Mental Health First Aid] can give physicians an example of what can be done by the community, for the community,” he explained.
Pastor Cecil Moonsam, a pastor for the Restoration Temple Assembly of God in Brooklyn, also sees the positive effects Mental Health First Aid is having on his congregation. For Pastor Moonsam, the church’s spiritual message and Mental Health First Aid are mutually reinforcing.
“If we understand what people are going through and step into their world, we have the potential to save their lives,” he said.
The training also helped Pastor Moonsam in his role as a church leader who deals first-hand with the mental health issues that members of his community experience. Prior to getting trained in Mental Health First Aid, Pastor Moonsam’s approach wasn’t working.
“What I was doing before was only triggering more violence,” he said. It was not unusual for him to call the New York Police Department when a person experiencing mental illness came to the church. Now, when a person who is experiencing a mental health or substance use issue comes to his church, he is more able to adequately and compassionately welcome and communicate to them that their presence is appreciated.
“Good things happen when people are given education,” said Dr. Arty. Mental Health First Aid is all about education. It teaches people to assess the signs and symptoms of a mental health concern. Create positive change by getting trained in Mental Health First Aid. Register today!