Social work research aims to increase mental health understanding in African-American faith-based communities
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A University of Texas at Arlington educator working to improve understanding of mental health and resilience among people of diverse races, faiths, and those in the military community has been recognized for her efforts with multiple grants and a lifetime achievement award.
Alexa Smith-Osborne, associate professor and director for the Center for Clinical Social Work at UT Arlington, has received a $200,000 grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Her co-investigator is Rick Hoefer, professor and director for the School of Social Work’s Professional Development Program.
The four-year grant supports the team’s proposal, “Recovery to Practice (RTP)-Social Work.”
“This award is a tremendous resource and support to what we are doing academically to prepare our students, consumer leaders and others for mental health practice,” Smith-Osborne said. “The Recovery to Practice initiative represents a significant effort to disseminate recovery-oriented – as opposed to symptom-reduction and institutionalization - mental health procedures to Texas social workers and social work education programs with direct involvement of mental health service users.”
In March, Smith-Osborne earned funding as a subcontractor from Hogg Foundation awards to The Potter’s House of Dallas and Dallas City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church. The funding will allow the Center for Clinical Social Work to support the organizations in enhancing mental health awareness in the African-American faith-based community.
“We are assisting the faith community teams to support pastors, educate congregants, and train social work doctoral students in enhancing the evidence base on stigma reduction and improved health care access,” Smith-Osborne said. “This is important work because research shows that African-Americans are less likely to receive mental health services because of reduced health care access, perceived stigma, and institutionalized racism which can lead to poor health care experiences.”
The Potter’s House of Dallas has long championed understanding and treatment of mental health. The church houses a Center for Counseling and Behavioral Health.
“With nearly 20 percent of the U.S. adult population suffering from some form of mental illness, and African Americans being 20 percent more likely to report psychological distress than their counterparts, the level of support from the Hogg Foundation Mental Health initiative is a godsend,” said Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Dallas.
“For far too long, the stigma associated with mental health treatment has precluded many in our communities from recognizing the need for help and from seeking assistance. We are thrilled to receive this award.”
The Seventh Day Adventist denomination has a long history of health promotion as well, as exemplified by its DCT LiveWell Center.
“We are excited to be a part of this Hogg Foundation for Mental Health initiative, because the increased life stressors associated with family, jobs and health has an adverse impact on spirituality,” said Eddie Polite, senior pastor of Dallas City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church. “There is an increased number of members affected by mental health issues and as a result we are seeing an increase in tensions and distractions among the body of believers. Until now, mental health discussions were regarded as forbidden subjects and congregations were more comfortable in ignoring these conditions even as they manifested themselves in inappropriate behavior among church members.”
He added: “The Hogg Foundation grant represents an opportunity to begin a healthy public dialogue about these issues and forum where positive and intentional protocols and interventions may be developed and studied for the broader community.”
In addition to the Hogg Foundation grants, Smith-Osborne recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers-Tarrant County Chapter.
In honoring the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, the NASW-Tarrant County recognized the best social work values and accomplishments demonstrated in the social worker’s lifetime.
“I am honored to have received this award among such a wonderful group of deserving honorees,” Smith-Osborne said. “I think the honor not only recognizes my efforts, but also the importance of university faculty engagement with the community in Tarrant County.”
About The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 50,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.