News & Announcements

No Longer Behind the Curve: Black Churches Address Mental Illness

Posted: September 02, 2014

The death of beloved comedian Robin Williams has heightened awareness of suicide and its relationship to mental health problems. But many African-American churches quietly began educating members on the issue well before the Oscar winner’s death. “A lot of times in the past, African-Americans have viewed severe depression and other mental illnesses as indicating a spiritual weakness,” said Tamara Warren Chinyani, an instructor with the “Mental Health First Aid” program. “We’re changing that paradigm around.”

The National Council for Behavioral Health introduced the program in the U.S. in 2008, with the goal of helping people learn how to spot signs and symptoms of mental illness. The program began its focus on African-American churches this year.

African-Americans are 20 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to report instances of serious psychological stress, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. And while more white teens commit suicide than their black counterparts, more African-American teens (8.3 percent) attempted suicide than their white peers (6.2 percent).

Some of the people leading the effort to build awareness about mental illness have seen its most tragic consequences up close. Bishop William Young and his wife, Pastor Dianne Young, co-founded the National Suicide and the Black Church Conference about a decade ago after a member of their Memphis, Tenn., congregation shot and killed herself under a large cross on the church grounds. Fifty attended the first biennial meeting and about 500 attended the 2013 gathering, he said.

“We’ve been silent on issues that have been right before us all the time,” said William Young. “Because of our mainly not having knowledge of these different types of issues we have avoided it.”

In addition to the conference, the couple started “Emotional Fitness Centers” at 10 churches in Tennessee, in hopes they will increase access to services and reduce the stigma associated with therapeutic care.


Advocates Raise Awareness of Range of LGBT Health Issues: Programs Address Disparities, Needs

Posted: September 01, 2014

While HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment remains a prominent issue in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, staff at health centers such as Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago know it is not the only public health issue of concern to the population.

Take smoking, for example. With research showing smoking rates are higher in the LGBT population, the center partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago to launch “Bitch to Quit,” a smoking cessation study and intervention that provides nicotine replacement therapy and trained smoking cessation counselors to help people quit. More than 250 LGBT smokers have joined the study since 2012.

“There are very high rates of smoking in the LGBT population, particularly among bisexual men and women, as well as lesbian women,” said David Munar, Howard Brown’s president and CEO. “We’re excited about it because nicotine addiction and smoking correlates with so many chronic health conditions.”

Health centers geared toward LGBT health, such as Howard Brown, are scattered throughout the nation. But while there are go-to places, LGBT public health advocates know that to fully address these needs, health care facilities and health professionals nationwide need better education on LGBT health issues.

Those issues are many and varied. For example, according to the “Women’s Health USA 2011” report from the Health Resources and Services Administration, lesbian women were less likely than heterosexual and bisexual women to get a Pap smear, a preventive exam that could detect cervical cancer. The report also said lesbian and bisexual women were more likely to smoke and binge drink compared to heterosexual women.

Older LGBT adults and seniors are more likely to have higher rates of chronic mental and physical illness, higher rates of HIV/AIDS and more likely to forgo necessary medical care, according to a report released in 2010 by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. Related issues include not having health care professionals experienced in dealing with with an aging LGBT population or being placed in nursing facilities that may be unwelcoming to LGBT seniors, the report stated.

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Call for Abstracts: Affordable Care Act and Best Practices for Hispanics

Posted: August 29, 2014

Join the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) as it celebrates its 19th Annual Conference with partners from the public and private sectors, bringing together experts from across the nation to share their multi-disciplinary experiences in improving health care delivery for Hispanic populations. National and international experts will present on current innovations in medical homes, accountable care organizations, health insurance exchanges, prevention, integrative care, e-health, and cultural competence for the growing Hispanic populations in the U.S. Disease areas include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. CME credits to be provided.

Conference Speaker Abstracts

If you are interested in speaking at the annual conference or would like to nominate an individual, the abstract form is now available. Please be sure to submit the completed form by September 30, 2014.

Read more and download the Abstract Submission Form.

Connect 4 Mental Health® Community Innovation Awards

Posted: August 28, 2014

Connect 4 Mental Health® (C4MH) will issue four awards to U.S.-based community programs exhibiting innovative work in the four C4MH pillars — early intervention, creative use of technology, continuity of care, and service integration (one winner in each pillar). Winners will exemplify the mission of C4MH, implementing approaches that support individuals living with serious mental illness and their families, and that also may positively impact the communities in which they live.

Each of the 2014 Community Innovation Award winners will receive a $10,000 award and access to a one-on-one mentorship program featuring exemplary community-based programs with expertise in the four C4MH pillars. Winners will also be featured on the C4MH website and highlighted in future media announcements. The deadline to apply is October 3, 2014

Award submissions will be judged based on the program’s impact on the community, measurability/sustainability and effectiveness in building community partnerships, among other considerations. 

Read more about the awards program.

El Paso Homeless Shelter to Focus on Female Veterans

Posted: August 27, 2014

Slightly more than a decade ago, Hope Jackson, who reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, was serving in the Middle East and entertaining thoughts of retiring to her native Florida after 25 years in the military.

Instead, Jackson, 49, found herself in the middle of the West Texas desert, overseeing the renovation of a three-bedroom house that will be a shelter this fall for as many as 12 homeless veterans. Carrying a child’s enthusiasm and few regrets about how her fate has changed, Jackson said she was doing what her faith dictates she should. “God spoke to me,” she explained. “He said he wanted me to take care of his children.”

The children, Jackson said, are female veterans who have served their country honorably but have since fallen on hard times. There was no better place for Jackson’s mission than El Paso, where she returned after her deployment and which is home to Fort Bliss, one of the largest military installations in the country. But as celebrated as veterans are in the city, El Paso lacks resources for homeless female veterans.

In October 2011, Jackson used her own money to buy a $70,000 house on the city’s northeast side that she calls the Rutherford House of Peace. It is one component of her plan called the HOPE (Healing, Optimizing, Perfecting and Empowering) Institute, which will include a similar unit for female veterans with children two miles away.

The program will include classes on topics ranging from basic hygiene to credit repair, homeownership and résumé building. The first 16 weeks are paid for by the HOPE Institute, Jackson said. After that, tenants need to have a job. “If they can’t, then they need to be re-evaluated,” she said.

The situation in El Paso became dire about two years ago, she said, when the Department of Veterans Affairs stopped allowing shelters or group homes to house both male and female veterans.

The El Paso Coalition for the Homeless put the number of homeless veterans in the city at about 154, with an average age of 49. Most, about 89 percent, are men. (There are about 1,400 homeless.) Jackson said the number of homeless veterans, women included, was much higher. The Rutherford House of Peace will serve women living on the street as well as women in transition who “stay on couches” with friends or family members.


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