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Get the news you need to start your day. The impact is especially profound for the African American community, research shows.

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For complex reasons, including greater exposure to violence, racism, and other trauma, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than their white counterparts. But they are less likely to seek mental-health treatment , even if they have equal financial means. That is in part due to a lack of trust in government and medical institutions with a history of mistreating African Americans.

But many in the community also accept mental trauma as a normal part of life for generations, said Meagan McLeod, a pastor and spiritual care director for Friends Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Northeast Philadelphia.

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For Brown, the strict rules of religion and the fear of condemnation from God became too much. He saw it first as a teacher, then as a case manager, and now as a board member of the Urban Mental Health Alliance in New Jersey.

The girl died by suicide while still in her teens. When people are reluctant to seek medical care, clergy often become first responders.

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Yet they are not always formally trained for that. Some have experience in professional counseling. Others will connect people to resources at local clinics. But some, often out of a lack of understanding, will think they can talk someone out of the mental illness, McLeod said. The answer is almost always an unequivocal no. Around the time Brown turned 30, she was in a nearly unbearable depression. Now she calls spirituality the cornerstone of her healing.

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Faith and mental-health treatment can — and often should — work together, mental-health professionals and clergy alike insist. Research suggests higher levels of religiosity or spirituality are associated with lower rates of depression , anxiety, substance-use disorder, and suicidal thoughts. Prayer can have the same calming effects as meditation, such as lowering blood pressure and respiratory rate. Many mental-health disorders are chronic, with episodes triggered by stress.

by Stephen Crane

Studies have shown that incorporating religious approaches into mental-health care may be especially helpful in engaging African Americans in treatment. Loren Johnson-Rosa sees this often in her work as a licensed clinical social worker serving clients with mental illness across New Jersey.

The Girl and Her Religion

But Johnson-Rosa, a practicing Christian, counters that God created the human mind, which led to the development of medication and therapy. Skip to content. Her religion made her mental illness worse. Then it saved her. Yashi Brown is a mental health advocate in Los Angeles.

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Courtesy Yashi Brown. Related stories.


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  • Katy Perry started as a gospel singer.

We knew about Madonna and Marilyn Manson because we picketed their concerts. Perry explained that as an early teen, her church group handed out pamphlets outside a Marilyn Manson concert titled, How to Find God. Perry started singing by joining the church choir. Releasing that album gave Perry the chance to go on tour, and travel the country, leaving her Christian bubble for the first time.

Perry told Paper Magazine that by the time she was 17, she felt like she was sliding away from God.


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In , Perry described to Marie Claire how she struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts after her marriage to British actor and comedian, Russell Brand, ended in divorce. I believe in a higher power bigger than me because that keeps me accountable. I pray all the time— for self control, for humility. Perry had her biggest spiritual transformation in after struggling with depression and alcoholism when her album, titled, Witness , had less than stellar reviews.

While religion plays a smaller role in her music than it did during her gospel days, Perry admits that she is still very spiritual.