AMEN Program Review: Lessons Learned while Promoting Community Wellness

AMEN Team

African American Mental Health and Wellness (AMEN) team is collaborating with KAZI FM 88.7 in producing a radio series to highlight the importance of addressing mental health and physical wellness in the African American community. The monthly series will feature AMEN team members from the School of Nursing, leaders from Mt. Zion Baptist and Rehoboth Baptist churches, and community organizations who provide mental health resources and support in Travis County.


AMEN Program Review: Lessons Learned while Promoting Community Wellness

December 15, 2021 Podcast: 
December 22, 2021 Podcast: 

Co-moderator Shannon W. Jones interviewed Jacki Hecht, Managing Director of the AMEN program at UT Austin School of Nursing to share updates on the AMEN program, which is in its 3rd year of funding through Austin Public Health.

Ms. Hecht explained that one of the first “lessons learned” was the importance of working together with the community to better understand their needs and priorities. The AMEN program convened an Advisory Board with community organizations, church leaders, and researchers to create and strengthen partnerships to promote mental health and wellness. When Mayor Adler issued an order to shelter in place in the early days of COVID, the AMEN team worked collaboratively with Pastors and lay health workers to create a telephone outreach program where AMEN health workers from within the church would call congregants to assess their need for information, healthcare and medications, and social support. Although few participants endorsed feeling alone, about 30% said they lacked companionship and felt isolated, and nearly 40% requested the health worker to call them again.

Promoting social connection is a common thread throughout the AMEN program. Most of our events are conducted in groups, where participants can gain support from health professionals, lay health workers, and each other. To promote mental health in a comprehensive way, we offer a series of self-guided wellness programs, WILD 5 Wellness (W5W), designed for the public. However, we tailor these programs to our faith-based community by including group Zoom sessions in which we discuss each topic, offer bible verses that connect spirituality and health, and lead small group discussions for peer support. The AMEN program also offers monthly wellness dialogues to address common needs, such as processing grief, loss, and loneliness, promoting self-care, managing chronic conditions, recognizing the impact of racism on health, and advanced care planning.

The long-term goal of AMEN is to create a model program that addresses health in a holistic, integrated way, recognizing the interconnection between mind, body, and spirit. As part of this effort, we hope to reduce stigma around mental health, making it safer to recognize, talk about, share resources, and seek help.

Creating Joy and Meaning Throughout the Holidays

In our December 22 show, Jacki and Shannon talked about ways to create meaning and joy through the holidays. Rituals and traditions are often what people look forward to during the holidays, but they can sometimes include expectations that keep us overly busy, worn down, and exhausted. By focusing on the true meaning of the holidays; deepening our spiritual connections, and serving others, we can connect with our purpose, and find joy and fulfillment. Mindful techniques, such as box breathing, walking outside, sleep/rest and prayer, are ways to take care of yourself during this busy time. Other activities that often feel meaningful are connecting with people we care about and being open and honest about what we need. For those who feel alone, it’s important to reach out for help to one of the many local resources who offer support and guidance. Please visit the AMEN resources page for mental health and self-care resources.


Learn more about AMEN podcast and check out other episodes!

Dec. 21, 2021