On Saturday, January 7th, two PEERS Program Coordinators, Lyndsey Ellis and Kozi Arrington, attended the Mental Health-Friendly Communities congregational orientation at the South Bay Community Church in Fremont. The orientation, headed by Pastor Horacio Jones of Fremont’s Family Bible Fellowship, Gigi Crowder, and Minister Monique Tarver (also known as the MHFC Training Team), accurately assessed that work needs to be done in terms of bridging the gap between mental health advocates and faith-based populations.

Additional speakers at the all-day training included Joe Anderson of Black Men Speak, Renwick Vittito of Family Education and Resource Center (FERC), and clinician Monique Ordone. PEERS was among the organizational community associates, along with the Pool of Consumer Champions (POCC).

Key points of the training included supporting mental health partners in the ways they want to be supported and the importance of identifying potential cultural brokers to help broaden the orientation’s message. Attendees engaged in several interactive activities inspired by case studies that enabled them to brainstorm and discuss ways to address stigma reduction in church congregations.

By the end of the day, it was evident that participants and partnering organizations alike gained new hope for dismantling harmful myths that shatter any chance at full recovery for those living with mental health experiences. Altogether, it was an exciting and inspiring time for the PEERS attendees. Our continual efforts to normalize talk about mental health, particularly in safe spaces, serves as a spiritual refuge from the outer world’s harshest realities.