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Mental Health Initiative: I Pressed On! “Breaking the Stigma”

In this guest blog, Rev. Kimberly Hinds shares the profound journey of Trinity C.M.E. Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, with the Center for Congregations Mental Health Initiative (MHI). Selected as one of the thirty congregations for the 2023 MHI cohort, Trinity C.M.E. embarked on a transformative path inspired by their own vision and supported by this Center for Congregations initiative. Stemming from Rev. Natalie McClendon-Obie’s vision sparked after a community fair, this deeply personal mission resonated throughout their congregation, families, and beyond.

After hosting a community fair, Rev. Natalie McClendon-Obie envisioned a three-pronged approach to how our congregation could be a conduit to senior citizens, prison reentry ministry, and dealing with mental health. It became a personal mission after seeing firsthand the effects COVID-19 had on our congregation, family, friends, and the world. 

I was all in to help bring her vision of mental health to fruition. You can probably imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon the Center for Congregations Mental Health Initiative. It felt like a divine appointment. The excitement grew for the church when we received the letter of the award. I had never taken part in a competitive grant and to be 1 of 30 churches chosen from a pool of over 200 churches, I was sure of my purpose in dealing with the stigma of mental health in the church and our community.

As a five-member team, we put our heads together to develop four areas that would holistically approach the development of our programs: mind, body, spiritually, and communally. Science and faith would work together to help people with mental health issues by providing them with the proper professional help and resources.

The programs enhanced one another. There were four phases to our programs. The first phase was a mental health forum. We reached out to experts we met at the mental health workshops through the Center for Congregation to be a part of the panel to answer questions in an intimate setting to help dispel some mental health myths. The forum helped to enlighten, inform, and engage participants to talk about mental health openly and honestly. The presentation from the three young women who shared their journey and struggles with mental health was nothing short of amazing. As the ladies detailed their journey, their transparency moved the presenters to discuss their struggles with mental health.

Group photo from Trinity C.M.E. Church’s Mental Health Awareness and Wellness Forum.

Left to right: LaWanda Lambert Girton, Pastor Nehemias Parra, Rev. Kimberly Hinds, Pastor Natalie McClendon Obie, Det. Terry Smith, Brandi Christiansen, and Laura Howe

While we still have three other events to host. This one event has certainly laid the foundation for the other three. I have seen God’s hand all over the planning, focus, and selection of presenters, down to the people He intended to attend. I am elated by the impact that has already been made, the stronghold of silence that was broken amongst presenters and participants. I am sure that God has a plan for each of these events.

As someone who has suffered through mental health issues since my early twenties, I have been outspoken about the effects of being silent about mental health. The effects of the shutdown due to COVID-19 reawakened my struggles with depression. The isolation from family, friends, and the church sent me down a very dark path. Thank God for the tools I learned. They helped me to seek out a therapist and talk to others. I pray that those who receive this grant will see it as more than just some money received but as a divine resource to minister to those who suffer in silence and work to break the stigma.