One church has found a fun and effective way to combat emotional and mental health problems brought about by stress and other things, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, TN, uses openness to combat emotional and mental health problems, CBN News reported.
"We now make it a part of our everyday conversation as opposed to something that's whispered," said Pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Walker of Mt. Zion Baptist Church's efforts to address the stigma on mental illnesses like Depression.
"So, 'do you need help? How are you feeling today?' and asking three questions beyond that because what is the common answer? 'Well, I'm fine.' Well really? So tell me more," Dr. Walker elaborated.
Dr. Walker, wife of Mt. Zion's Bishop Joseph Walker, also developed a referral system for members' easy access to medical professionals such as counselors and psychiatrists or to support groups, CBS News said.
"As a church, we don't have to re-create the wheel. The resources are out there. We have the people, they have the resources. We serve as the connectors," Dr. Walker explained.
She also said that their program, "ChurchFit," ensures that members in need of mental help not only get a holistic health package that involves physical, emotional, and spiritual facets; it also ensures that the individual member is helped in every moment with their specific need at each level of their recovery.
Mt. Zion members were also trained to be knowledgeable with the ChurchFit program so they could know how to help each other and others by knowing how to actually help and ask the right questions.
"It's not an option to leave you. It's not an option to hang up the phone. It's not an option to tell you 'we can't help you.' Where do I need to send you next? They're trained to figure out immediately, in that moment, what are the next steps in terms of getting that person help and getting that person connected," Dr. Walker told CBC News.
CBS News revealed that the whole concept of the program actually came from Bishop Walker's personal experience of Depression after his first marriage failed. Walker didn't know it was Depression then except that "he was in a dark place".
"I went through an incredible loss in my life and found myself in a place of depression and didn't know what it was," he recalled.
From that experience, Walker realized that there is a stigma in the African-American community when it comes to getting counseling as a sign of being "crazy." He then decided to bring mental health in the open by speaking about it "from the pulpit" and through ChurchFit.
ChurchFit, which initially started with daily exercise classes and nutritional advice that zone in on mental health, now has a website that offers the programs even to children and non-members through registration. They also offer merchandise, an annual International Full Gospel Conference, and videos linked to their YouTube Channel on how to be shape.
CBN NEws cited members of Mt. Zion who attest to the efficacy of the program such as College student Dacari Middlebrooks and Psychologist Veronica Bells.
Middlebrooks, who previously suffered Depression, narrated that he usually disregarded counseling and only resorted to prayer. However, attending Mt. Zion, made him realize his need for a therapist and that eventually changed his life.
"I went to counseling. I enjoyed it. It was like the greatest two and a half years of my life," he testified.
Bell, speaking on Bishop walker's leadership, shared, "I think what he did, in essence, is normalize it from the pulpit-that what you're experiencing is real. We can pray about it but there are also resources available."