As local mental health advocates and professionals joined APA leaders at
the Hope and Healing community center in Memphis in April, depression went on
Altha Stewart, M.D., is immediate past president of the American
Credit: Eve Bender
Information was exchanged, hands were joined, and questions were answered:
The American Psychiatric Foundation's (APF) first "Community
Connections: Let's Talk Depression" program fulfilled its goals—to
educate community members about depression and help link individuals with
depression to treatment resources.
The program was held by the APF through an educational grant from Wyeth
The half-day event was the first in a series of six meetings whose goal is
to raise awareness of depression in communities across the country. The next
meeting is scheduled in Columbia, S.C., on June 11.
"The American Psychiatric Foundation was delighted by the success of
the initial pilot of our Community Connections: Let's Talk Depression public
education event in Memphis," APF President Richard Harding, M.D., told
Psychiatric News. "I believe we have opened the door to a new
approach to depression education."
Harding acknowledged the work of APF's immediate past president, Altha
Stewart, M.D., who helped to bring the program to Memphis and arrange for
community leaders to address attendees.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), spoke about the importance of educating
the public about mental health.
Credit: Eve Bender
"Community Connections: Let's Talk Depression" was truly a
conversation with the Memphis community," Annelle Primm, M.D., director
of APA's Office of Minority and National Affairs, told Psychiatric
News. "Mental health advocates, families seeking information, a
bishop, a physician executive from an insurance company, a medical school
professor, a TV personality, and a Congressman were just a few of those who
came together on a Saturday morning to engage in a dialogue about depression
and the value of treatment."
The meeting was emceed by popular television personality Mearl Purvis, a
Fox news anchor on channel 13 in Memphis. Attendees were welcomed by U.S. Rep.
Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who spoke about the importance of educating the public
about mental health.
Among minorities, Primm said at the meeting, depression often goes
unrecognized. Among those who are diagnosed, African Americans and Latinos are
less likely than people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds to get
treatment that is consistent with practice guidelines.
Since most minority individuals with depression do not initially seek help
in mental health settings, it is essential that primary care professionals and
clergy are knowledgeable about not only the signs and symptoms of depression,
but also how to link people with depression to treatment.
Mearl Purvis is a Fox news anchor on channel 13 in Memphis.
Credit: Eve Bender
"Repairing a schism that has long separated primary care and
behavioral health care in medical settings must also be accomplished before
people with depression can receive proper care," said Clarence Davis,
Davis is medical director of the TLC Family Care Health plan, a managed
care plan covering people living in west Tennessee, and is working on
integrating behavioral health services with medical services for the plan's
beneficiaries. He pointed out that medical illnesses and mental health
problems are often inextricably linked, and when mental health treatment is
separated from other medical treatment, people with mental illness may fall
between the cracks.
Ideally, people with health problems—whether they be mental illnesses
or diabetes, for instance, would be treated in one place through the
coordinated efforts of a treatment team working together for the benefit of
the patient, he noted.
Panelist Lori Gordon, L.C.S.W., who is clinical manager for Magellan Health
Services in Nashville, agreed with Davis and noted that managed health care
plans such as Magellan are increasingly turning to innovative means of
responding to patients with depression and other mental illnesses.
An example of this is a peer-support program run by Magellan in the
Nashville area that links people who have been repeatedly hospitalized for
psychiatric problems with "peer support
specialists"—consumers who have been trained to help peers with
similar problems and link them to supports within the community.
Panelists speaking at the Community Connections program also emphasized the
role of clergy in helping people with depression receive appropriate care.
Clarence Davis, M.D., is medical director of the TLC Family Care Health
Credit: Eve Bender
Bishop William Young, C.P.T., head of the Greater Fellowship Faith
Tabernacle in Memphis, founded the Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church
to address the spiritual, emotional, and mental health needs of community
members after the suicide of a female congregation member.
Young, a pastoral counselor, also developed the Emotional Fitness Program
in conjunction with six other Memphis-area churches. The program uses"
peer advocate liaisons" who are members of the churches to help
people with mental health problems get treatment within the community.
For many, he noted, "the church gives meaning to life. We create an
environment in which people can be hopeful."
APF Executive Director Paul T. Burke commented on the future of the
Community Connections program in an interview with Psychiatric
"The program will be customized to address the cultural and
sociopolitical realities of communities," he said. "The choice of
topics and speakers will be tailored for each local area, to enhance the
relevance and reception of our message. Additional community-based, depression
education forums are being planned for multiple locations in the months ahead.
Plans include foundation-led events in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Santa Fe.
We're excited about this new paradigm in depression-based education and look
forward to sharing the experience in selected communities."
More information about the Community Connections program is
available by contacting Barb Matos at