Harlem Word: Dr. Sidney Hankerson talks about church-based depression care

GHHEditor January 23rd, 2015

Dr. Sidney Hankerson, MD, MBA is a psychiatrist who is currently teaching at Columbia University and treating patients at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.  His work focuses on increasing access to mental health treatment among African Americans. In this article he describes his work with a Queens church to study how it can be used to provide depression care.

Q. What kind of work are you doing with African-American churches?

A. I’m using African-American churches in New York City, as sites to promote depression education, screening, and, treatment for African Americans. The reason that we decided to use churches as places where we could promote mental health information and care is because we know that the church is a very central and trusted place in many African-American communities. Also, public health workers and doctors use churches to address many health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity, that African-Americans suffer from more often than other ethnic groups.  I feel that the church is a great place to build trust and also provide treatment for depression.

Q. Can you tell us some details about your depression research here in NYC?

A.  Right now, I’m working with a large church in New York City.  I was lucky enough to take part in a suicide prevention program held at the church. Through this program, I formed relationships with some church members who told me that providing treatment and education about depression was very important to them. Our study does three things: 

  • We’re meeting with the pastors to hold focus groups, or group interviews, to discuss their ideas about what depression is, what are the challenges that they see their community members face in getting depression treatment, as well as what their thoughts are about doing research and providing church-based care. 
  • We have church members take a survey on depression symptoms to find out how many people there have depression.
  • We provide treatment within the church for people who suffer from depression. 

 

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