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South Side Churches Can Get Free Mental Health Training From This Local Group

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is looking to help churches in Black and Latino communities that are struggling because of coronavirus.

The Chicago chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is offering free training to faith-based communities on the South Side.
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ENGLEWOOD — The Chicago chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is looking to help faith-based communities on the South and West sides that are grappling with the coronavirus.

The mental health advocacy group, which recently received a $500,000 from the Illinois Department of Human Services to assist in their efforts, will use the funding for mental health education and training in targeted zip codes to help underserved communities.

“We have a lot of space and opportunity to build partnerships all over the city — including the South Side — and we’ve reached out to over 250 churches in the Chicagoland area to engage in this training. It’s a really great opportunity for faith-based organizations,” said Jen McGowan-Tomke, chief operating officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Chicago chapter.

With coronavirus cases surging again in the city and Black and Latino communities bearing the brunt of the virus, mental health services are vital, McGowan-Tomke said.

Through the organization’s FaithNet network, faith leaders learn how to navigate conversations about mental illness with their congregants and exchange information, tools, and outreach materials with other clergy members.

Part of that outreach includes Bridges of Hope, where churches can learn the basics about mental illness using a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation as a jumping off point.

“It’s really seated in the spirituality that comes with faith-based communities as an approach we use at NAMI to engage leaders in those communities to help bring this message,” McGowan-Tomke said. “And there’s always a component of lived experience that we also bring to our trainings as research-based ways to reduce stigma.”

Several area churches have participated in the Bridges of Hope training, including Greater Open Door Baptist Church in Homan Square, St. Paul CME Church in Bronzeville, and Second Baptist Church in Evanston.

Churches interested in training can submit a request online at namichicago.org/faith or call 833-626-4244.

“There are inherent supports already within the community that are doing such important work, and providing this training is an opportunity to sort of lift that up and help fill in any gaps that might exist,” McGowan-Tomke said.

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