Religion can influence black mental health attitudes

By Amanda Best

4/25/2017

The Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health reported that African-Americans are 10 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites. This 10 percent may sit right next to you in your church, mosque, or synagogue.

From the time of slavery to the present, religion has had a strong impact on the African-American community. The Pew Research Center reported 87 percent of African-Americans consider themselves to be “religious”. Spiritual beliefs and religious community provide a great source of support. Unfortunately, many individuals rely only on prayer and faith to cope instead of seeking help from professionals.

A 2013 survey of the global Christian organization LifeWay Research revealed that 48 percent of Christians believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome mental illness.

(Photo: LifeWay Research mental health statistics)
(Source: LifeWay Research mental health statistics)

“It’s important that prayer should not be a barrier in receiving professional mental help but a facilitator that can be used in conjunction with professional mental help,” said Tahirah Abdullah, an assistant professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts Boston.

Pastors are also not immune to mental illness. Another study cited by LifeWay Research found about a quarter of pastors (23 percent), say they’ve experienced some kind of mental illness, while 12 percent say they received a diagnosis for a mental health condition.

Jordan Harris, a minister from Union United Methodist Church in Boston’s South End, explained the lines between seeking a therapist and seeking a pastor.

About Amanda Best 4 Articles


Amanda is a second year journalism graduate student at Emerson College with a passionate for all aspects of broadcast news. She is passionate about social justice issues, music journalism, and community-building. Amanda believes in the power of journalism to showcase underrepresented voices and inspire powerful dialogue and action.