Harlem Church Offers Free Mental Healthcare

Mental illness has no prejudice. Whatever your race, religion, background or creed, we’re all equally susceptible to mental problems. When it comes to seeking help for such problems, some people are more reluctant than others. Perhaps a fear of being labelled as crazy holds some back.

According to Psychology Today, many members of the African-American community “continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness.” Furthermore, a 2008 study showed that “over a third [of African-Americans] felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered ‘crazy’ in their social circles.” Not receiving help for mental illness leads to worse and worse conditions for people.

Reverend Michael Walrond of the First Corinthian Baptist Church is tackling this issue.

The H.O.P.E. Center

Rev. Walrond has a goal: to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment within the black community. Where else to start but his church? Walrond recently launched the H.O.P.E. Center, which stands for Healing On Purpose & Evolving. The program offers therapeutic services that are affordable and community-based. Located at 228 W 116th St. in NYC, the center is open to people of all ages, and offers both individual and group therapies.

“There’s a normalization of trauma in this community. We don’t engage it, we don’t address it. The traditional response was to pray about it. Not to negate that, but that’s not the same as having a mental health practitioner. Language is the biggest way to take the stigma away,” said Rev. Walrond.

the H.O.P.E. Center Harlem

Rev. Frazier (L) and Rev. Walrond (R) of the HOPE Center

NYC First Lady McCray

Last week at the grand opening of the HOPE Center, Chirlane McCray, wife of NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio, was there for support. The couple advocates for mental health, and in November of last year launched ThriveNYC, an outline of initiatives that support the mental health of New Yorkers. If anyone understands the plight of New York’s mentally ill, then it’s Chirlane McCray.

At the HOPE Center’s opening, McCray said the following: “Government cannot do this work alone and we shouldn’t expect people to travel someplace unfamiliar to deal with people they do not trust when they’re suffering. Now folks who live, work and worship in this community are only a short walk away from high-quality affordable mental health care and that care will be delivered by people who understand this community.”

What We’re Hoping For

Mental illness, especially that of drug addiction, has a negative connotation in American society. People like Rev. Walrond and Chirlane McCray want that to change. Also, through community support, we hope that people of all backgrounds begin to understand that they are not crazy. Having a mental illness, knowing it, and leaving it untreated… now that might be crazy.

If you or someone you love is dealing with mental illness, seek help today. Better yet, if you are in the NYC area, drop by and see the Reverend.

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