CHICAGO – Throughout the month of December The National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago (NAMI Chicago) and The National Alliance on Mental Illness Metro Suburban (NAMI Metro Suburban) will host the last of their free virtual mental health courses for Black and Brown faith communities on Chicago’s South and West Side.
NAMI Chicago and NAMI Metro Suburban are both Illinois affiliates of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a United States mental health advocacy group and grassroot organization. Both offices teamed up to extend their services to various faith communities after the Illinois Department of Health awarded the groups with a $500,000 grant in November 2020.
Although, NAMI Chicago and NAMI Metro Suburban have worked with different faith communities in the past, the state grant has financially allowed NAMI Chicago and NAMI Metro Suburban to increase and focus their efforts toward Chicago’s South and West Side communities— areas that have been disportionately and heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erica Bailey, a CRS or certified recovery support specialist and a peer counselor at NAMI Metro Suburban said, “It’s communities of color that are being affected, and the mortality rate is higher amongst those who become sick with COVID. And so we really want to concentrate our efforts with both communities, because we know that lives are at stake.”
Strategically, the affiliates have decided to use churches or faith communities as a point of contact. Bailey said, “We are trying to get into both communities, by the way of the church, because we know that a lot of people who are dealing with difficulties often turn to the church for support.”
After noticing that the pandemic has led to an increase in depression amongst individuals, the faith initiative uses their training, Bridges of Hope, to educate pastors and congregations on resources and signs related to mental health. “We want to better equip faith based communities, to again, be able to identify when a person is in crisis, and also to equip them with the base knowledge and then some resources so that they can better meet that congregant’s needs,” Bailey explained.
Making the class more personable, the virtual 30-minute PowerPoint presentation is led by a NAMI peer counselor who lives with mental illness. The peer counselor uses their own experience to connect with those that they teach.
Bailey, who lives with depression and anxiety, is one of the teachers for the Bridges of Hope training. She expressed, “It really shows that the person is not alone and that there is hope and that again, recovery is possible, and so it’s been really really meaningful to me and my own recovery.”
During the Bridges of Hope training, The NAMI Chicago and NAMI Metro Suburban peer counselors provide an overview of the mental health symptoms and diagnosis related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trainers also lead a discussion on stress management, wellness tools, and tenets of…