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Committing to Resilience

Committing to Resilience

Unless you have been “off the grid” for the last decade, you are likely aware of the growing mental health crisis in America. Today, nearly 58 million adults or 1 in 5 have a diagnosed mental illness. The fastest growing segment is women. Thirty-six point seven percent report having been diagnosed with depression – a 10.6% increase since 2017. The number of African Americans who report being diagnosed with depression is now 34.4%. This outpaces the growth of whites who report a depression diagnosis by more than 8%. Finally, according to the Centers for Disease Control, people living at or below the poverty level report feelings of nervousness, anxiety, or worry at a significantly higher rate (19.4% vs. 12.7%) than adults who live above the poverty level.

  • Female
  • Black
  • Poor

These are the primary demographics of those served at My Cup of Tea. It is also notable that prolonged exposure of children to trauma involving abuse, neglect, and dysfunctional home lives contributes to serious mental health issues. More than a majority of women served by My Cup of Tea over the last decade had childhoods that included these adverse experiences. Working side by side with Orange Mound women for approximately 2,500 days, we know that what the data reports about the mental health of poor, Black women in true.

More than the mental, emotional, and physical damage caused by a mental illness, an article by Drs. Michaela Beder and Kevin Simon in Psychiatric Times points to another challenge unique to the poor in our country.

The evidence is strong for a causal relationship between poverty and mental health. However, findings suggest that poverty leads to mental health and developmental problems that in turn prevent individuals and families from leaving poverty, creating a vicious, intergenerational cycle of poverty and poor health.

In other words, if we strive to address poverty by providing a good paying, reliable job but fail to grapple with the issue of mental health, the odds of breaking the cycle of poverty become slimmer.

As the mental illness plague has become more pervasive, it seems everyone is seeking the causes. Some point to the obsession with social media. Others suggest materialism in our culture. Broken homes are a favorite excuse along with “helicopter parents” or a lack of physical activity. And while the medical and academic communities mine the data to discover the cause or causes, some in the Christian community suggest that a lack of prayer, reading of Scripture, and time spent with God is the basis for our nation’s challenges with mental health.

Honestly, we don’t know the “why.”

What we know is that many of the women we serve are suffering, and if they are suffering, then so are their families. What we also know is that treatment is now available in our communities.

The Memphis Resilience Project is a long-term commitment by the mental health experts at Christian Psychological Center to partner with nonprofits and city organizations to provide mental health services to the underserved. Under the program, individuals at 175% of the poverty level or below can receive counseling for $10, $30, or $50 per session depending on their income level. This alone would be an enormous benefit to the community, but there is more. CPC will provide schools support for early intervention for childhood trauma. They are offering community trauma workshops, training for nonprofit staff on how to build emotional resilience, and scholarships for clinical trainees to help grow the number of available practitioners to serve the underserved.

Last week, we introduced this program to the My Cup of Tea ladies and already some are moving forward to take advantage of the services offered. Whatever the causes of mental illness, we are resolved to support the ladies in the same way we would support them if the diagnosis were cancer and not depression, anxiety, or PTSD. We will recognize it’s real and serious. We will pray together and share encouraging passages of Scripture. We will ask how else we can help. We will encourage them to take full advantage of proven treatments.

And we will trust in the goodness and mercy of our God.