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NC Community Center Educates Faith Leaders on Mental Health


Wednesday, October 19, 2022   

A community program in Charlotte offers mental-health training to Spanish-speaking faith leaders. The goal is to reach Latino families in the region who may otherwise lack access to resources.

According to Mental Health America, North Carolina ranks 38th nationwide for access to mental health care, and more than 50 % of young adults diagnosed with depression go untreated.

Ron Clark, Camino Contigo community services manager at Camino Health Center, explained clergy are on the front lines of the nation's mental-health and addiction crisis, but few have received formal training on warning signs, strategies to cop with unwanted or troubling feelings and behaviors, and when to seek professional help.

He said he will be relying on a translator for the sessions.

"The goal is for me to facilitate this eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training to 50 clergy and leaders in the church," Clark noted.

Clark teaches an evidence-based process called Wellness Recovery Action Plan, which aims to help individuals recognize and mitigate distressing feelings and behaviors and craft a wellness action plan tailored to their needs. He said he hopes clergy can soon begin facilitating similar groups in their congregations.

Clark expects alongside prayer and spiritual support, clergy will need to boost resources for people seeking help. Especially as the state's mental-health workforce continues to dwindle.

According to the University of North Carolina's Sheps Center for Health Services Research, dozens of North Carolina counties have fewer than one full-time psychiatrist. Clark added faith leaders are in an ideal position to help residents struggling with mental health.

"People who have these diagnosis and these challenges, they could use some other support along with that," Clark emphasized.

A grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provided funding for the training.

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