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‘Let’s Talk Mental Health’ Conference with Special Appearance by Girlfriends’ Star Jill Marie Jones and More

Rev. Anthony L. Trufant (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn, NY)

*The Rev. Anthony L. Trufant and The Turning Point Counseling Ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn, New York have announced a daylong community conference titled “Let’s Talk Mental Health: Mine, Yours, and Ours,” set for Saturday, May 5, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The conference is free and open to the public.

Mental health expert Dr. Yvette Sealy, M.S.W., D.S.W., will give the keynote address regarding the importance of recognizing and obtaining treatment for mental health issues. Also, actress Jill Marie Jones, who portrayed “Toni Childs” on TV’s long-running sitcom “Girlfriends,” will share a word or two about how her awareness of mental health issues in the Black community has grown over the years.

“The conference aims to equip the church and the community with information, resources, and inspiration to confront the challenge of dealing with mental health issues in the Black community,” says Emmanuel Baptist Church Senior Pastor Trufant. “More specifically, the intent is to teach participants how to access the broad range of resources New York City makes available to families and individuals wrestling with mental health challenges.”

Jill Marie Jones (Photo Courtesy of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn, NY)

The daylong conference will include a morning devotional, welcome remarks from Rev. Trufant and local elected officials, and the keynote by Dr. Sealy, a plenary session featuring an array of mental health professionals, three adult workshop sessions for adults and an open forum for youth from 12 to 18 years old. Among those set to speak or lead workshops are psychologist Dr. Seth Langley of SUNY Downstate Medical Center; Liza Bowers of NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Ava Gayle of ThriveNYC; Lisa Miller-Bethea, LCSW-R of NYC Department of Education; Dr. Claire Greene-Forde, LCSW of NYC Department of Probation; Cheryl Donald, MA, MBA, LMFT of Brooklyn Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC; Dr. Gail Brightwell of NYC Department of Education; and Eric Pierre of NYC Department of Education.

Emmanuel Baptist Church is taking the lead in addressing an issue that many Black families are hesitant to admit to because of misinformation and stigma. Rev. Trufant notes that Emmanuel specifically established the Turning Point Counseling Ministry to provide a resource at a time when it is most needed.

“Many churches provide what is categorized as pastoral care, but not bonafide counseling,” he says. “Some Black churches tended to super-spiritualize issues, which may be primarily, yet not exclusively, psycho-social and psycho-emotional in nature. For example, someone who suffers from multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia may be mistakenly classified as simply demon-possessed.”

“Many people have been highly critical about how churches in general and Black churches, in particular, fail to engage the everyday issues of how people deal with mental health,” Trufant continues. “To some degree, the criticism is warranted. However, Emmanuel is providing the public with practical and conceptual tools, which can be of help to those who are struggling with mental illness and those who support family and friends who struggle with such issues.”

According to the New York Police Department, there is an increase in emotionally disturbed persons popping up and disrupting public gatherings—worship and meetings. In recent years, Emmanuel’s members have experienced a dramatic up-tick of mental illness both inside and outside of the church.

“In one case, my wife and I had to secure a restraining order against a former member who developed a fixation on us and threatened to do bodily harm,” says Rev. Trufant. “I worked with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzales and his staff to make sure that this person received proper mental health assistance and not simply be locked up for criminal conduct.”

Rev. Trufant and Rev. Shareka Newton, the Executive Pastor of Emmanuel have delivered the message of mental illness to the pulpit. Last year, they developed a sermon series titled, “Does This Make Me Crazy?” which tackled mental health challenges families face in the larger community.

“Let’s Talk Mental Health: Mine, Yours, and Ours” will take place on Saturday, May 5, at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 279 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238. Online registration is available by clicking the conference banner at www.ebcconnects.com. On-site registration begins at 9:20 a.m.; breakfast and lunch will be served to participants.

Gwendolyn Quinn
Gwendolyn Quinn is an award-winning media consultant with a career spanning over 25 years. She is the founder and creator of the African American Public Relations Collective (AAPRC) and the Global Communicator. Her weekly columns, “Inside Broadway,” “The Living Legends Series,” and “My Person of the Week” are published with EURWEB.com. She is also a contributor to BE.com, BE Pulse (via Medium.com) and the Huffington Post. Quinn is also a contributor to "Souls Revealed" and "Handle Your Entertainment Business." She is the curator of The Living Legends Foundation’s “The State of Black Music and Beyond” essay series published on the Huffington Post. Contact her at GwendolynGQuinn@gmail.com.

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