APA Releases New Resources on Mental Health for Faith Leaders

ARLINGTON, Va., — The American Psychiatric Association (APA) Foundation has produced two new resources to help faith leaders better understand mental illness and treatment, and better help individuals and families in their congregations facing mental health challenges. APA now offers a 20-page booklet, “Mental Health: a Guide for Faith Leaders,” and a companion two-page “Quick Reference on Mental Health for Faith Leaders.”

Many people facing a mental health challenge, personally or on behalf of a family member, turn first to a faith leader. And for many receiving psychiatric care, religion and spirituality are an important part of healing. In their role as “first responders,” faith leaders can help dispel misunderstandings, reduce stigma associated with mental illness and treatment, and facilitate access to treatment for those in need. This guide is intended to provide faith leaders with the knowledge, tools and resources to support that role.

The Guide and Quick Reference is the culmination of months of work the Mental Health and Faith Partnership, made up of psychiatrists and faith leaders representing diverse faith traditions.

“We are pleased to participate in this important collaboration and to be able to share these resources aimed at furthering the common interests of faith leaders and mental health professionals in promoting health, healing and wholeness,” said APF Executive Director Paul Burke.

Psychologist Nancy Kehoe, Ph.D., R.S.C.J., a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart and assistant professor at Cambridge Health Alliance affiliated with Harvard Medical School, said: “The Mental Health Guide is a major step forward in bridging the gap between faith communities and the mental health community. Working toward the eradication of the stigma related to mental illness is the challenge of both communities and the more we understand the significant role each community plays in recovery, the more enhanced will be the lives of those whom we serve."

Sister Kehoe is a member of the Mental Health and Faith Partnership Steering Committee and author of Wrestling With our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness.

The Guide includes a general overview of mental health and mental illness, as well as information on how faith leaders can support people with mental health challenges. For example, it discusses how to create a more inclusive and welcoming community, when and how to make a referral to professional mental health services, and ways to deal with resistance to accepting mental health treatment.

Both resources are available for download from the APA at www.psychiatry.org/faith:

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at www.psychiatry.org. The American Psychiatric Foundation is the philanthropic and public education arm of the American Psychiatric Association and is on the web at www.americanpsychiatricfoundation.org.

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