Research has shown that poverty can negatively affect our mental health. Those living below the poverty level can be three times more likely to report psychological distress than those living well above that level, according to findings by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Because racial minorities are overrepresented among the poor, it would seem blacks and Hispanics would be well represented in the line seeking treatment for mental disorders. But, statistics say, that demographic receives antidepressant prescription treatments half as often as whites.
The stigma of mental illness still reigns in some segments of society. Instead of seeking help that can lead to active and productive lives, some blacks and Hispanics suffer in silence or seek the help of religious leaders.
"The faith community either helped or hindered their recovery," said Yolonda Kelsor Clay, outreach coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lexington. "A lot of believers when initially diagnosed, myself included, thought that if we prayed enough, we would get better. Maybe we did and maybe we didn't."
Despite her deep religious beliefs, Clay said she sought professional help and now helps others do the same.
Knowing the faith community has provided a great deal of emotional support for those in recovery as well as their families, NAMI developed, "Sharing Hope: Understanding Mental Health," an educational program that works with black congregations to increase awareness of the signs of mental illness and the roads to recovery.
The intent of the program is to decrease the stigma of mental illness in the black community.
As the Hispanic community grew nationally, NAMI adapted the program to include a bilingual curriculum. Only five cities are piloting that, and Lexington is one of them.
To that end, NAMI-Lexington is hosting a Sharing Hope bilingual conference Aug. 25 at Nicholasville United Methodist Church.
"This is our first program that will include both groups," Clay said. "We will have translators. No one will feel left out."
Hispanics and blacks will be sharing their experiences with mental illness, she said.
There will be a family member to discuss how their loved one's illness affected the family, a faith leader who will talk about how it could affect a congregation, and an individual with mental illness who will talk about recovery.
Those in attendance will learn to read the signs or clues and symptoms of specific disorders and where they can go to get help for themselves or loved ones, Clay said.
A companion booklet will be handed out to help guide the discussion.
After a lunch break, the session will be geared toward suicide prevention and awareness.
"We are finding out that young men in the African-American and Hispanic communities are at the highest risk for suicide," Clay said. "It is also very high for white males 60 and older. In every category, in every race, the rates are getting higher."
If you can't make the conference, Clay said, she and other presenters are willing to speak to your group, bringing the same information and format.
"We want to encourage people to come to the conference and listen," she said. "They don't have to participate. No one will be put on the spot, but you can ask questions. It is educational."
Don't worry about what your neighbors, friends or family might think of you for attending the conference. Just focus on the person you want to help.