Religious leaders across the city will dedicate this weekend’s services to ending the stigma of mental illness.
Starting on Friday, New York City will host the first-ever Weekend of Faith for Mental Health, where one thousand houses of worship will speak openly to their congregations on the subject of mental health.
According to the city, one in five New Yorkers deal with a mental health challenge every year. Depression is the most common issue, with over half a million adult New Yorkers estimated to be diagnosed with it. Even with the large number, less than 40 percent have reported to receive any care for it.
First lady Chirlane McCray, along with other elected and city officials, will visit houses of worship over the weekend to share information on ThriveNYC, which is a $850 million plan announced last year aimed at improving mental health services and promote mental wellness across the five boroughs.
“The members of clergy are frontline workers, they’re first responders in so many cases, they’re trusted leaders of our communities and people really trust them for advice, they trust them to give good information and they’re exactly the kind of people we need to raise awareness,” McCray said.
In order to provide support for the congregations participating over the weekend, the city has created a tool kit for clergy members that offers key talking points, myths and facts about mental health, suggested uses of the tool kit, and also statistics.
Some of the talking points addressed include explaining that mental health is not only the absence of mental illness but also includes emotional, psychological and social well-being. Clergy members are also advised to let people know that mental health issues are treatable ad there is help out there.
“ThriveNYC awareness weekend makes us stop whispering about mental illness and speak openly on helping those who need our strength and support,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis.
Through ThriveNYC clergy are also giving opportunities at other programs such as a virtual learning center featuring educational videos, tip sheets and links to resources.
The city is also working with the houses of worship to host mental health first aid training, so people can be trained at sites they feel comfortable with.
“Though people often worry about their physical health, they tend to often not pay attention to their mental health,” said Rev. T.K. Nakagaki, Buddhist Council of New York. “We all need to have a wholesome and healthy mind, as well as body.”