Experts join church leaders to improve mental health awareness - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Experts join church leaders to improve mental health awareness

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC (Source: WCSC) Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC (Source: WCSC)

Suicide, depression, and violence are subjects rarely talked about in the pulpit, but in the wake of the Charleston church shooting, mental health experts say something needs to change.

Mental health experts gathered with church leaders at University of Tennessee Health Science Center to talk about ways to improve mental health education in church.

"People talk about prayer, but you have to do something after you pray," T.J. Johnson said.

Wednesday's meeting comes at a time when the country is mourning the loss of nine lives at an AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

One of the victims in the shooting was Pastor Clementa Pinckney. Dr. Gerald Durley, who attended the mental health meeting in Memphis, is a friend of the pastor.

"It hit me the same way as when I heard Dr. King was killed," Durley said. "I didn't hardly believe it. I still cannot grieve appropriately, because I'm shocked at something of this nature."

Johnson also knew the Pinckney family. He said more prevention programs on safety and training are needed in all churches.

"We have to begin to train our pastors on prevention and intervention," Johnson said. "We need law enforcement in the church training the pastors on how to be aware of things that are going on."

Experts said pastors should not only be aware of strange behaviors, they should also have a preventive plan in place to address any problems.

"I think it's really important that the community come together," psychologist Sherry Davis Molock said. "They also need to have some people who have expertise--particularly with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder--there were children who were exposed to this violence."

The previously scheduled event at U.T. Health Science Center was designed to focus on suicide in black churches.

These professionals said if you have any problems with anger, depression, or violence, do not be afraid to seek outside help.

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