Harlem Church Addresses Chronic Mental Health Issues With Free Services


A Harlem church is going well beyond the power of prayer to address mental illness in the black community, opening up a center that will offer free mental health services to local residences. He’s decided to use the pulpit to address the issue.

First Corinthian Baptist Church, led by Reverend Michael Walrond Jr., has officially launched the H.O.P.E. (Healing On Purpose & Evolving) Center today (Dec. 22). Located at 228 West 116th St., just a few blocks away from Walrond’s church, they offer free mental health services to Harlem residents that are designed to be self-empowering and help individuals get back on their feet.

“There’s a normalization of trauma in this community,” said Walrond to DNAinfo. “We don’t engage it, we don’t address it. The traditional response was to pray about it. Not to negate that, but that’s not the same as having a mental health practitioner. Language is the biggest way to take the stigma away.”

Walrond has personally battled depression and is aware of the stigma surrounding it in the black community. He explained people are often hesitant to seek out mental health services for fear of being labeled as “crazy.”

Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, has long been a mental health advocate and believes the center is essential for Harlem residents to be able to access.

“Government cannot do this work alone and we shouldn’t expect people to travel someplace unfamiliar to deal with people they do not trust when they’re suffering,” said McCray at the ceremony. “Now folks who live, work and worship in this community are only a short walk away from high-quality affordable mental health care and that care will be delivered by people who understand this community.”