Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy

Academic Discipline

Community Psychology

First Advisor

Bradley Olson

Second Advisor

Tiffeny Jimenez

Third Advisor

Ericka Mingo



This study will focus on understanding the role played by the church in meeting the mental health needs of its African American parishioners. The goal is to understand the ways that African American communities hold faith, position themselves within the church, and the outside world, with a specific focus on issues of trust, which have emerged based on historical and structural violence that has debilitated the health of our community. The study examines attitudes and perceptions of church leadership and members around their caring for parishioners with mental health issues. The hope is that the data will help construct better understandings of the potential new ways of attending to members with mental health issues. This community–engaged, qualitative project draws on the findings from semi-structured interviews and a focus group exploring the lack of mental health in the church from the lived experiences of six leaders and six members. All interviews were conducted in-person at a mutually agreed upon location within the Chicagoland area. Using the method of thematic analysis, nine themes indicating experiences of the roles church stakeholders play were identified. Some of these themes include: Lack of Accountability, Doctrine, Church lacks Mental Health Resources, Stigmatization, Come as you are, Solidarity, Trust, My Brothers’ Keeper, and Build it and they will come. The analyses are geared towards comprehending the contextually and largely missing experiences of Christians suffering in silence due to the stigma from the church.

Key words: Mental Health, Stigma, Resources African American, Pastor, members, Mental Illness, Trust


Community Psychology Doctoral Program Dissertation Notification of Completion Doctoral Candidate: Lisa A. Sutton Title of Dissertation: WHAT ROLE DOES THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH PLAY WHEN MEETING THE MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS OF ITS AFRICAN AMERICAN PARISHIONERS? Certification: In accordance with the departmental and University policies, the above named candidate has satisfactorily completed a dissertation as required for attaining the Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Community Psychology Doctoral Program (College of Professional Studies and Advancement) at National Louis University. Brad Olson, Ph.D. Dissertation Co-Chair Ericka Mingo, Ph.D. Dissertation Co-Chair Tiffeny Jimenez, Ph.D. Dissertation Co-Chair May 25, 2020 Date