“We have, as stated, predominantly Black and Brown people at this church,” said Mimsie Robinson, associate pastor of Bethel Gospel Church in Harlem. He’s dedicated most of his adult life to the church.
Robinson said many church members either got sick with COVID-19 or knew someone who did. Now during recovery efforts, he said some community members are struggling—they’ve lost jobs or loved ones. This would usually be a time when church members come together.
“Our church is closed. We do stream services, but there is nothing like being able to see your brothers and sisters, greet them and show love to them,” he explained.
The distance is taking a toll on mental health, Robinson said, and he wants to better understand how to provide services to his church members. That’s why he supports Mount Sinai’s recent launch of a survey called “Speak Up On COVID.” It’s an effort by the hospital system’s recently established Institute for Health Equity Research.
“Our goal is to conduct the kind of research into inequities faced by people,” said Dr. Carol Horowitz, co-director of the institute. “Do the kind of research that’s not for research sake, but actually come up with answers and solutions that are going to make people healthier and help eliminate inequities, the unjust inequalities faced by some New Yorkers.”
Researchers say more than 3,000 New Yorkers have taken the survey so far, but they want 10,000 people from underrepresented communities, like minority groups, people who don’t speak English, or people who are LGBTQ.
“We are not the team saying, 'Who is more likely to get COVID, who is more likely to be hospitalized with COVID.' That’s not what we’re asking,” explained Horowitz. “We’re asking, ‘How is the pandemic impacting you and your family? Whether you had it or didn’t. Whether a loved one had it or didn’t.’”
The survey asks how the pandemic affects jobs to education and even diet. The goal is to identify needs, so the hospital system can work with its 100 community partners, like Bethel Gospel Assembly, to meet them.
On mental health, Horowitz said, so far, the survey shows that three out of four New Yorkers have symptoms of anxiety, half have symptoms of depression, and nearly half show signs of PTSD.
Robinson, who took the survey recently, said the services explained and offered at the end are reason enough for his church members to participate.
“Once a person takes the survey and they come to that final page, they can get their need, their immediate need addressed, so that’s another good reason to take that survey,” he said.