With NAMI’s Sharing Hope: Understanding Mental Health program, predominately African American congregations around the country are becoming more comfortable talking about mental illness and identifying ways to be supportive of people who live with mental illness. A second round of grant support to NAMI chartered State Organizations and Affiliates for further roll-out of this initiative will take place this spring. As one Sharing Hope presenter in St. Paul, Minn. expressed, “We’re perking up our ears, tuning up our hearts so that we can listen and help one another.”
The NAMI Multicultural Action Center developed the Sharing Hope toolkit with the understanding that African Americans tend to seek help from the clergy more frequently than from other professionals and that the faith community provides key support to many families. The goals of the toolkit are to assist NAMI in reaching out and partnering with African American congregations to provide information to help strip away stigma and facilitate important discussions about mental illness within these congregations.
" ...one of the most effective components of the Sharing Hope presentation is the presenter team sharing personal experiences."
In a 60-minute interactive presentation, a team consisting of a faith leader, a family member and an individual living with mental illness provides an overview of mental illness, treatment and recovery from the perspective of people of faith who have experienced these illnesses. Sharing Hope helps faith leaders and their congregations to initiate an open dialogue about mental health, the important role spirituality plays in recovery and the support faith communities can provide for individuals and families affected by mental illness. Sharing Hope offers information and tools to help members of congregations find treatment and support.
Evaluative data from 2009 grant sites shows that the presentation increases understanding of mental illness and encourages a greater sense empathy and desire to be supportive of individuals who live with mental illness. Audiences have sent a resounding message that one of the most effective components of the Sharing Hope presentation is the presenter team sharing personal experiences. Presenters are themselves examples that recovery is real.
Five new NAMI Affiliates and/or State Organizations will be selected this spring to expand and further evaluate Sharing Hope through 2011. These new sites will help further roll out this initiative and work with the Multicultural Action Center to provide continuing evaluative data and feedback.