School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Margaret Gopaul


Clergy Black, Black Church, Community, Stigma, Mental Health




The utilization of mental health treatment in the Black community has been diminished in comparison to other ethnic groups (Avent, Cashwell, & Brown-Jeffy, 2015). Members of the Black Church may have been socialized to seek help from their spiritual leader as opposed to mental health professionals. A transcendental phenomenological qualitative study (Moustakas, 1994) was used to gain an understanding of how twelve (5 male and 7 female) Black clergy experience mental health and the stigma relating to mental health. The participants completed a survey and a semi-structured interview with the researcher and described their experience with mental health issues personally and with their congregants. The data was analyzed by utilizing the Van Kaam method (Moustakas, 1994) via the lens of critical race theory (Utecht, 2014) and symbolic interactionism (Carter & Fuller, 2016). Five major themes with subthemes were discovered from the interviews. The themes included (1) views of mental health, (2) cultural beliefs regarding mental health, (3) response of clergy; (4) barriers, and (5) recognized requirements. The general theme was having a community or the need to connect with others. A few practice implications were (1) enhance understanding of mental health issues as experienced by Black clergy in the Black church, (2) partnering with Black clergy, the Black Church, and mental health professionals through community-oriented training and education, (3) improve the ability to seek assistance through associations and connections, and (4) new ways of thinking and new discoveries and/or methods of dealing with mental health issues. As Black people have been conditioned not to speak about mental health issues or pursue professional mental health treatment, a connection between mental health professionals and the Black Church and community may improve the ability to seek assistance (Rudolfsson & Milstein, 2019).

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