June 28, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers. A wave of Black Christian ministers and pastors are making a case for both prayer and therapy. Nurturing fathers make a difference. And adult anxiety and depression early in the pandemic didn’t increase as much as we thought – according to a new study. Plus: Actress Marsai Martin and musician Alanis Morissette are working to combat social isolation and stress.

Church leaders urge parishioners to use prayer – and therapy – to ease mental troubles

Dr. Thema Bryant, an ordained minister, clinical psychologist and president-elect of the American Psychological Association (Image credit: CBN)

Unlike the days when prayer alone was considered the solution for depression and other mental conditions, some Christian leaders are advocating their followers meld their trust in God with therapy. Putting faith into action this way is crucial because people in the church struggle with their mental health like everyone else, according to Dr. Thema Bryant, ordained minister, clinical psychologist, and president-elect of the American Psychological Association. Bryant herself used dance therapy to overcome sexual trauma, likening the movement to the ministry of praise dance in the Black church.

“Some survivors get to a place where they hate their bodies because it’s the place of the violation,” she said to CBN News, “but (the body) is really a gift from God. And so to be able to reclaim it, to honor it, to move our bodies to dance to the glory of God, has been a wonderful part of my healing.” Bryant is part of a wave of Black Christian ministers and pastors encouraging parishioners to be honest about their struggles with mental health and even launching ministries within their congregations to offer people direct support.

Dr. Bryant also told CBN News that churches need to create a culture when people feel it’s acceptable to talk about their pain. “I know at my church tradition when people say, ‘How are you?’ the usual answer is, ‘Blessed,’ or, ‘I’m blessed and highly favored.’  And so we want to get to a place where people can say ‘I’m blessed and…’ What is the rest of the story? What is the fuller story?”

Nurturing fathers make a difference


Kevin Shafer is a sociologist and fatherhood researcher. But 13 years ago, when his first son was born, he was still floored at how hard schools, health care and social networks made it for him to be really engaged in his child’s upbringing. His work often uses social science to illustrate the importance of nurturing fathers on the long-term development of children. “A man’s mere presence, paycheck, and willingness to punish misbehaving children is not nearly enough,” he wrote in Yes! Magazine. 

“When fathers are caregivers – when they provide emotional support and act affectionately toward their kids – the effects go well beyond growth, development, good health, and solid grades. My research shows the benefits also include having children who value emotional intelligence, gender equality, and healthy competition.”

Surprise! Adult anxiety and depression barely increased in pandemic’s first year

Anxiety and depression among adults may not have increased nearly as much in the pandemic’s first year as earlier studies suggested, according to new research covered by Medical Xpress. The team led by Charles Rhum at the University of Virginia and Ronald Kessler of Harvard looked at a larger, more comprehensive federal survey of 1.4 million Americans in all 50 states. Their conclusion, in research published in JAMA Network Open: Levels of anxiety and depression from March to December 2020 were less than 1% higher (0.4%, to be exact), on average, than they were from the same period of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The federal survey only includes adults 18 and over, so it doesn’t shed light on the pandemic-exacerbated mental health crisis among children. It did, however, include subsets of participants, including students. Anxiety and depression in that group, generally the youngest in the survey, rose 2.4 percent in 2020 – still small but six times the increase for adults overall. The team noted that the data may have hidden increased in mental health issues among groups like first responders, and that larger increases in anxiety and depression might still emerge for later periods of the pandemic.

If the new findings are confirmed, they would not be the first to overturn some early assumptions about mental health during the pandemic. Suicides, which many researchers had expected to rise, declined slightly overall in 2020. And multiple types of substance use declined among youth (although drug overdose deaths rose sharply in 2020 among all age groups). –Don Sapatkin

In other news…

Black-ish alum Marsai Martin has partnered with Eventbrite to help combat the issue of social isolation. “When I found out that my generation is on track to being one of the most isolated in history, I knew I wanted to be part of the solution,” the actor and producer wrote in an announcement posted to Instagram. And part of that solution is to “encourage people to get out there, try something new and make new connections.” Speaking to Essence, Martin added: “Life is all about going against your fears, finding our confidence, and trying to figure out where we are in life. And I’m not just talking to girls out there, I’m talking to myself as well. We have to get out of our comfort zone. We have to open up because that’s what makes us human.”

Marsai Martin/Shutterstock

In a thought-provoking essay for Electric Lit, Katherine Packert Burke wrote about fears of a “gender apocalypse” creeping into literature, with tropes about tragic trans characters, among other things. “Trans people of all varieties are not made unhappy by being trans,” she writes. “They are made unhappy by lack of access to the medical care that helps them live comfortably in the world, by the hostility with which cis people treat them, by attempts to legislate them out of existence.” 

Did you miss this news about megastar musician Alanis Morissette? She released a meditation album earlier this month. The Storm Before the Calm is available on music streaming platforms and the Calm meditation app. In an Instagram post announcing the album’s release, Morissette wrote, “This album was written during a time when my deep rapturous connection with stillness and gentle inquiry was no longer viewed as a luxury…but rather a sustaining mandatory for survival.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Courtney WiseReporter

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...