VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/14/14)—As a member of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) participated Friday in a meeting of more than 40 prominent, diverse faith, psychiatric and other mental health leaders in Arlington, Va., to inaugurate the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership, a collaboration among psychiatrists and clergy aimed at fostering a dialogue between two fields, reducing stigma, and accounting for medical and spiritual dimensions as people seek care.
Along with IDAC—a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)—convening organizations were the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF). The partnership announced that it will create new resources to train religious leaders about mental health and substance use disorder issues and for psychiatrists about faith and faith communities in mental health recovery.
“We look forward to the good God will do through this partnership to reduce stigma and improve the quality and accessibility of care for individuals and families living with mental illness,” says Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, who attended the meeting on behalf of ABHMS and represents ABHMS on IDAC’s steering committee.
In addition to Ramsey-Lucas, the meeting included former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy; APA president Paul Summergrad, M.D.; AAPD president and CEO Mark Perriello; director of AAPD’s Interfaith Initiative Ginny Thornburgh; APF executive director Paul Burke; Sister Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ, Ph.D., author of “Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness”; Bishop William Young of the Healing Center Ministries, Memphis, Tenn.; Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, LSCW; and Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America.
“The agenda for this partnership is ambitious but reflects the scope of the challenges we face. 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,” Summergrad said. “This July also marks 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. The American PsychiatricAssociation is deeply committed to entering into a respectful dialog with faith-based leaders, to listen, learn and provide the best evidence-based education about mental illness we can provide.”
Added Perriello: “According to the World Health Organization, 18.7 percent of the U.S. population has some form of neuropsychiatric condition, like depression. Many of these individuals receive minimally acceptable levels of care through America’s public and private healthcare systems, and often turn to their faith communities for additional support. Through the partnership between the American Psychiatric Association and AAPD’s Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, we will educate faith leaders and psychiatrists about the important role of spirituality for many in the recovery process, ultimately providing better care and better outcomes for many people with mental and behavioral health conditions.”
The nation’s largest disability rights organization, AAPD promotes equal opportunity, economic power, independent living and political participation for people with disabilities.
IDAC is a nonpartisan coalition of 33 national religious organizations from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh traditions with a mission to mobilize the religious community to speak out and take action on disability policy issues.
The APA is a national medical specialty society whose more than 35,000 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders.
The APF is the philanthropic and public education arm of the APA.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.