Religions (Nov 2021)

Where Would You Go? Race, Religion, and the Limits of Pastor Mental Health Care in Black and Latino Congregations

  • Daniel Bolger,
  • Pamela J. Prickett

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 12
p. 1062


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A growing body of literature explores how religious congregations shape attitudes toward mental health in racial/ethnic minority communities. Such research has primarily focused on the views of Black clergy and congregants, limiting our ability to understand how the views of Black Christians might differ from Christians in other racial/ethnic minority communities. We drew on focus groups with 14 pastors and interviews with 20 congregants from Black and Latino churches in Houston, Texas, to examine how church members make decisions about where to seek mental health care or direct others for help. We found that both Black and Latino Christians prefer seeking spiritual resources, like their pastor, when dealing with mental health issues, even though pastors feel limited in their ability to help congregants. The preferences of members of each racial/ethnic group, however, were driven by different logics. While Black Christians in this study sought spiritual resources based on perceived norms within the broader Black community, Latino Christians relied on pastoral care due to norms in their individual congregation. The results shed light on how religious beliefs, race/ethnicity, and social class intersect to shape attitudes toward mental health care in ways that have implications for potential partnerships between churches and mental health care providers.