Turning Tables Toward Mental Health and Wellness

2019-20 Mission & Ministry Grant Recipient · United Church of Christ St. Augustine

The NBA Mission & Ministry Grant program accepts applications annually in the autumn and awards funds for use in the following year. Mission & Ministry Grant recipients used their 2019-20 funds to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults, youth, and young adults. As the 2019-20 grant period comes to a close, we asked grantees to share a story from the past year of how their communities and organizations benefitted from their award.

We thought we were going to change the world, but what we really did was change ourselves. That often happens at The Turning Table.

When The Turning Table (TTT) received the Mission & Ministry Grant from the National Benevolent Association, we got to work. It’s important to know, that any time you are invited to TTT meeting, that gathering will be representative of our community.  We came as individuals from the Latinx, Black and White communities, which are the primary cultures in this area.

We came young and old, from ages 15 to 80+.  We came as educated and uneducated, male and female, with our different ideas and abilities.  We came because we wanted to change the world, or at least our little corner of it. We came because we saw an opportunity to engage in the meaningful work of moving our community towards mental health and wholeness.

We began by sharing our individual perspectives about mental health, along with the perspectives of our families and our cultures.  We quickly recognized that there was a common thread running through our stories, the first thread was discouragement.

In the Latinx community, people are often discouraged from seeking professional mental health care as it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness.  We quickly learned that was also true in the Black community.  It was a little bit different for the white community. There was discouragement, but for different reasons.  The white community discouraged seeking professional mental health services because the services are often unaffordable and inaccessible.

Not only is professional help beyond most budgets, getting mental health support also requires a wait for services which extends far beyond an immediate crisis. The wait for an appointment can be between three days and three weeks.  It can also require traveling an hour or more to neighboring counties.  The distance is a huge obstacle to a community without public transportation.

Over time, we decided as a group to work together to share both wisdom and resources to tackle these problems.  We agreed to start conversations about mental health in our respective community circles.  We also planned to offer a series of educational and inspirational events as an effort to break down barriers and remove stigma surrounding mental health. We planned a program for high school students, which was welcomed by the teachers, counselors, and the principal.

Then came Covid-19. Our plans were frozen, but not forgotten. We remain connected.  Even amid social distancing, we stayed in relationships that are rich and life-giving.  We recognize that we have created a network of people who are concerned about the mental well-being of our community.  People we are comfortable talking to and calling upon to share our challenges and struggles.  We carry within us a plan to move forward.

In October 2020 we began to offer Community Education and Inspiration programs via Zoom. We’ve stayed in touch with students.  Recently a counselor and teacher called upon us for help with providing a mental health curriculum.  While we are not comfortable meeting face to face with students, as originally planned, we were delighted to offer financial help with obtaining the curriculum. We continue to network with local church pastors and advocate for open and honest conversations about mental health challenges.  We have been called upon to help three families in crisis by connecting with counselors who agreed to provide services at a substantially lower rate.

COVID-19 might have slowed us down, but it has not stopped us! The grant from the NBA was definitely the catalyst we needed. It makes us feel hopeful.  It reminds us that anything is possible. We are grateful for the opportunity to turn the tables toward mental wellness in our community.

The Turning Table is a project from the United Church of Christ St. Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida. The project was created to offer a safe space for people with all different backgrounds to debunk myths surrounding mental health and to provide professional mental health care for those in need.