Research suggests that religious leaders are the first recourse for most Americans with mental health issues. But we know little about how those who approach them consequently fare. To address such gaps in our knowledge, the proposed project adopts a mixed-methods, multi-level study to understand how faith communities respond to mental health issues. The project will be carried out in two cities, San Antonio and Washington D.C., and entails case-studies of 16 congregations in each city, with (1) in-depth interviews of clergy and lay leaders (N=100); (2) participant observation in congregations; and (3) congregational surveys (N>3000). The first phase of this study is fully funded and underway in San Antonio. The current proposal requests funding for the second phase, to extend this study to Washington D.C. (Aug 2018 - Aug 2020). This will allow us to expand the scope of the study by adding a comparison with a major urban center, increasing sample size, and increasing the religious diversity of the sample by including more African American churches as well as non-Christian faith communities. Project outputs include survey and interview datasets, a grant proposal and new survey instrument for a larger national survey, conference presentations, research article submissions, op-ed submissions, and research reports to congregations and to the wider public. Publications resulting from this project will address vital gaps in the social-scientific literature on religion and mental health and improve awareness of mental health concerns in faith communities. Follow-up interventions based on best practices learned from this study will enable religious communities to better respond to mental health issues. The project's collaborative approach, which brings together practitioners and scholars from different disciplines, will enhance the dialogue between religion and the psychological sciences, as well as improve prospects for future innovative research and partnerships.
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